From what I’ve read on a number of blogs over the years, there is a discussion about comment moderation but it’s basically binary: you are either for it or “agin” it. There is in fact a third option, which is a modified moderation, a middle ground, if you will.

Comment moderation is a topic about which people have strong opinions, especially those who feel that if you moderate comments you are choking off the conversation that can build up in a comment thread. I’m not insensitive to that argument and every now and again I think maybe I should switch off comment moderation, with the idea of providing a more free flow of conversation.

It’s right about then that a spam attack, masquerading as comments, comes along to bring me back down to earth.

Just now, a quick search on the subject reminded me that I posted about this back in March 2007 – Comment Moderation Turned on Reluctantly

Until now I’ve resisted the impulse to moderate comments. But lately I’ve been irritated by finding “comments” that are just excuses to include links to other sites, without any evident relevance for the topic of the post being “commented” upon.

I’ve just had another flurry of “comments” which fit that description.

So I’ve decided to keep moderation on, but not totally.

The middle ground position I mentioned above, and the basis of the policy and practice here, is that only the following comments are held for moderation:

  • comments from first time commenters
  • comments with a few suspicion-inducing elements

The ability to do this, without having to watch the blog day and night, is provided by the excellent toolkit in blogs, under Administration -> Settings -> Discussion.

There are some basic “suspicion-inducing” elements for which you can set moderation in the “on” position, so to speak:

  • a specific number of hyperlinks – number specified by the blogger
  • specific words or phrases – specified by the blogger

WordPress also makes it easy for the blogger to edit comments. I have started to do that with “harmless” comments that contain clearly spammy links, mostly quite irrelevant in terms of the blog post being commented on. As we have CommentLuv installed, the commenter already has a link back to his or her blog.

That’s why I say that, courtesy of these WordPress tools, I am able to have a middle ground approach on comment moderation.

This is the policy we have – displayed on the Comments Policy page and linked from the right sidebar.

Comments are moderated for first time commenters and for comments with “spam-like” elements, such as an excessive number of hyperlinks.

So for your second time comment and thereafter, and provided your comment does not trigger our other “unacceptable use” principles stated here, it should appear immediately.

We reserve the right to delete comments we deem as spam, transparent attempts to get traffic without providing any useful commentary, and any contributions which are offensive or inappropriate for civilised discourse.

Links are ok, if relevant to the post: otherwise they will be edited out.

If you experience any problem with posting comments, please contact us immediately and we will see what needs to be done to resolve the situation on a “win-win” basis.

To me this seems a pretty rational, not unduly restrictive approach to comment moderation. The comment stream is kept free of spam and once people have made one comment their subsequent comments are posted automatically. What’s not to like? I welcome comments and dissent, within the rules :).

comment spam free zone badge by Suzie Cheel

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