Who owns the Comments section – a real-life story

Who owns the comments section – the blog owner or the blog reader?

I recently read a post on an professional community site that publishes posts by its members. This site has a disclaimer at the bottom of the post that states that the opinions represent those of the author and not of the specific organisation; the content is member contributed and that publishing on its site does not imply that they endorse it.

It so happened that this article caused quite the controversy. The comments were not encouraging or positive at all! In fact, all the commenters had similar sentiments.

After about 15 or so not very flattering comments (I must say that I did agree with the commenters as well) the organisation intervened. They reiterated the disclaimer, that everyone has the right to express an opinion and basically told everyone to play nice.

So, to trans-contextualise this to a blogging scenario – the blog owner provides the space for readers to comment. It is the blog owners prerogative to hold comments in moderation (a word of caution here, one I’ve experienced myself. Sometimes blog owners don’t get to moderate their comments until a long while after posting. When they are approved the opportunity for a lively community discussion is lost). It is also the blog owners responsibility that the community plays nicely with each other. Why else go to the trouble of having commenting guidelines?

In summary, the blog owner is responsible for the comment section. The readers are responsible for playing nice.

Going back to that scenario I sketched earlier – I do still think that this particular organisation should have moderated the actual article before it was posted to ensure it complied with its espoused principles (yes, it was that bad!) and to save the author some face in the community – it is an professional community after all. But the way it handled the comments controversy was rather well done, so kudos to them!