Comment Guidelines & Feedback Wanted On Commenting

I love that people can comment at Search Engine Land directly within stories. I not only want comments — I want people to contribute links as well. I thought it would be useful to talk more about this, plus get feedback from readers on how we can improve the commenting system going forward.

Currently, we require registration and use TypeKey to handle this. Yes, TypeKey is a hassle. I deeply appreciate those of you who were not already using that system for taking the time to register so you can comment.

I said when we officially launched that we were going to develop a better system. Plans for that are in the works, and I hope to have it live in a month or so, fingers crossed.

Registration won’t go away. I know how great it is to go to a blog and be able to comment quickly without having to register. I know registration cuts into participation. I know that there are systems to automatically catch comment spam. But I also know registration is the absolute best way to keep comment spam under control. I want to spend my time talking with people and ensuring they can contribute, not policing the comment spam.

Since we launched, we’ve had maybe one or two spam posts out of over 600 comments. I’ve also banned only one person out of nearly 300 people registered. Registration works well. It’s not going away. Plus, we have an audience that rocks!

I like to build guidelines up over time, in reaction to problems if they develop, so that things are as free as possible to start. I only have two to begin with:

  • Be respectful and polite
  • Drop links only if they are relevant

Fortunately, everyone’s been respectful and polite with each other. I will merrily nuke any post if I feel people are behaving in some type of aggressive or immature manner that they’d never do to someone in person. No one’s acted that way so far, which is wonderful. Debate with each other. Disagree with each other. Argue forcefully with each other. Just keep it respectful :)

As for links, so far they’ve all been relevant as far as I can see. In fact, I want you to drop links more. Really! Here are some good examples.

In my interview with Gabe Rivera of Techmeme, Don Dodge came along and mentioned a great interview he’d done with Gabe last year. Excellent. I want people to know that. Thanks for dropping the link, Don — it makes the story better.

In my story about Microsoft’s eye tracking study, I later saw that Gord Hotchkiss had a good follow up post that extended what I’d written about and added other useful observations. As we were emailing each other on something else at the time, I asked him to please come by and link drop. He did. And the story is better for it.

We don’t have trackbacks. Trackback spam is so bad that I’m simply not going to enable it, sorry. But commenting is a form of manual trackback that I encourage you to do. However, remember the relevancy issue.

If you’re simply mentioning a story here but not going that much beyond it, dropping a link probably isn’t that appropriate. Let me come back to Don as an example of doing it right.

Don blogged about my interview. That post didn’t really extend the coverage for my readers that much. Dropping a link to that post wouldn’t be that relevant – though if it were part of something like, "Mentioned your post here, and I love the service to. My favorite thing…," I’d probably be OK with it. But Don naturally did the better drop. He pointed to the content-rich interview he’d done with Gabe last year.

Overall, if you’re considering a link drop, just ask yourself if people heading over to your site are going to learn something new, unique or different on top of what we’ve written. If you honestly believe so, drop away! You’re not going to get banned. If you somehow seriously miss the mark with relevancy, we’ll give you a heads-up.

Links are all flagged as nofollow right now, except for a small number of people I’ve explicitly marked as trusted commenters. In the new system, we’ll likely make it easier to become trusted automatically and have no nofollow links. Hehe, no nofollow!

When adding links, I vastly prefer if you embed them in anchor text. In other words, don’t do something like this:

Mini-WeSmirch
http://www.wesmirch.com/mini

Instead, enter it into the comments box like this:

<a href="http://www.wesmirch.com/mini">Mini-WeSmirch</a>

And that will make it look nice and neat like this:

Mini-WeSmirch

Don’t worry if you’ve done it the other way already. I’ve never asked anyone to do embedded links before, nor do I make it easy at the moment. And if you just aren’t comfortable doing the HTML code for an embedded link, just leave a URL. That’s fine. Remember, you can preview your posts to make sure they are OK before actually posting them.

Also, you can use a limited number of other HTML elements to format posts. I think the full list is here. However, use these sparingly. Two reasons for that. First, you can’t currently edit comments. So if you screw up, I or someone else has to make time to fix it. Second, it’s easy to go overboard.

In addition, a general tip. Before I post anyway, I ALWAYS copy and paste what I’ve written and place it into an email message that I save as a draft. If I’m writing something long, I compose outside the comment form, then copy and paste into it. Forms can go wrong, here or anywhere. Save what you’ve written, then it’s safe to delete when you see it show up.

Now for your feedback about comments. Here are things I’ve thought about needing:

  • Ability to edit posts within a short period of time
     
  • Ability to easily format posts to indent, add bold, add links using buttons
     
  • Ability to post using AJAX, so that when you enter something, you see it appear as you type, how it will look and can submit without having to load a new page.

What things would you like to see added? Any sites you especially like in how they offer comments?

Finally, yes — a comment feed is coming, for those who want to keep up on what people are saying at Search Engine Land.

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About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • http://blog.outer-court.com Philipp Lenssen

    Nice tips. Right now what confuses me the most is…

    - that I don’t see the text of posts here become highlighted when I select them, e.g. for citations to add to my comment. Try it in Firefox 2, the selected text will just turn from black to a very dark blue, barely noticeable.
    - that I am always prompted for my blog’s URL when I want to comment, even though I’m signed in with TypeKey here (which is fine for me by the way). I’m pretty sure I did hit “remember me”, though I could be wrong.

    And yes, the ability to edit comments shortly after commenting (like, 90 seconds, or whatever e.g. Digg allows) would be very neat. I guess it goes along with an Ajax-interface though that might not be strictly necessary…

  • Philipp Lenssen

    (So yeah, it forgets my URL even when I choose “remember me”.)

    One more thing: you might wanna include a link to the SixApart.com formatting rules page right next to every comment box, handy for newcomers…

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    You might want to put a summary of this on the page for comments, especially the link style points. I know I find it a hassle in terms different systems to deal with the various commenting system rules regarding whether I can put a link, put anchortext instead of the URL, whether or not a text URL will be autolinked, etc.

  • Jen Keller

    Can you alternate the background colors for each of the comment posts? Or do something to more visually separate them? Every comment has a white background now and when you scan them (looking for the names you respect or know), it’s hard see the “visual breaks”. See Matt Cutt’s comments as an example. I’m anticipating Search Engine Land will be approaching Matt’s comment volume in the near future :)

  • fauxnominal

    Hi Danny,

    I think requiring registration is ultra-lame.

    “I also know registration is the absolute best way to keep comment spam under control”

    Sure it is! If by “best” you mean “easiest to implement”.

    If you actually meant “best” in the correct sense of the world then you’re smoking something funny.

    We, the web users of the world, have far too many accounts everywhere and you just made me go sign up for another one.

    I don’t care about the fact that it can be used elsewhere (in fact I object, strongly, on privacy grounds).

    I do care about the fact that I want to respond quickly and efficiently to an interesting post of yours, and suddenly I have to open a new window, decide on yet another username and (low-importance) password, I have to fill in my first-name, my last-name, my Email Address, my One-Line Bio, my Weblog/Website, my Sites I enjoy, and a bloody Photo Url.

    Maybe I just wanted to say “Great post, dude”, or perhaps I was going to provide a thoughtful, considered analysis.

    But I don’t want another *&£$ing registration form.

    Hopefully this comment meets your “respectful and politeness” requirements, I’ve endeavoured to hold to them while expressing my absolute distain for the idea.

  • http://www.bladam.com/ Adam

    Personally, I don’t mind centralized (and reasonably trustworthy) authentication schemes such as TypeKey or Blogger or whatever. But I do think you could do just fine with Akismet; takes the burden off your users and wouldn’t create substantively more work for you.

    One feature I’d love to see in your comments is the ability for commenters to be notified by e-mail (or via RSS) either when people reply to *their* comments (threaded) or when anyone comments in the same thread.

  • http://andybeard.eu/ AndyBeard

    I am signed up with Typekey, but they are very bad at remembering who I am

    Can I add email notification of comments.

    Not everyone is using CoComment (I am not sure if there is anything similar)

    General comment feeds for me have never worked well, and RSS readers can become overwhelming enough as it is.

    If it was technically possible to provide a feed only to threads I have made a comment in, that would be ideal.

  • http://www.kalekapi.org pcayata

    thanks
    kale kapı

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