Would You Publish This Comment?

It’s always been my practice never to write anything overtly negative on my blog, on the simple philosophy that it never pays to make enemies. If I read a book and think it’s nonsense, I don’t review it. If I test a product or service and don’t see value in it, I don’t write about it. I’d rather ignore something than have my honest, but harsh opinion permanently accessible online.

Would you publish a nasty comment on your blog?When it comes to comments however, I’ll generally approve any comment that isn’t blatant spam. I think honest debate is healthy.

But one recent comment presented a quandary. In one of my best-of articles, I noted that I found a particular blog post interesting and linked to it. I know nothing about the blogger other than that he wrote a piece I found helpful and thought my readers would find value in. I received this comment (still unpublished):

[blogger name] is a scam artist and you will be taken advantage of if you do business with this sorry excuse for a human being.

If I ever see him again, I will make sure I don’t recognize him after that. Ask around, he is [expletive]. Most people are just too busy to waste any more time on him and feel sorry for all his next victims. And you all are victims.

On one hand, I’d never want to point my readers in the wrong direction. On the other, this comment is not only vulgar but borderline libelous and threatening.

What do you think? Would you publish this comment in the spirit of open debate or trash it potentially inaccurate and damaging? I’m interested in your thoughts.

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  1. I am all for healthy dialogue and debate; however, I absolutely would not post this comment. If I’ve done due diligence in vetting the person whose link I’m recommending, then I will stand by it. If I am inspired by the content of the link but haven’t checked out the poster, then I will share with a disclaimer. The vitriolic comment posted by the threatening attacker is not helpful and, to me, just another form of spam. Your blog is not the place for him/her to express a personal vendetta.

  2. Linda – thanks for the thoughtful comment. I tend to agree (which is why the comment remains unpublished) but remain very interested in the perspectives of others. I appreciate yours. 🙂

  3. It’s the interwebs, who cares! … Seriously, I’d post it just to see what happens. It is a real person with a real opinion. We need to be a bit experimental, and I don’t see any real risk to posting it.

  4. I would agree with Linda. Also, the comment doesn’t further the discussion and took the form of a personal attack. If the commenter had highlighted examples of how this person is a scammer, then I may post an amended comment – deleting the personal attack.

  5. Thanks Cece. Agree that specific examples may have bolstered the commenter’s case, but I think the nature of the comment would have still left it questionable.

  6. I wouldn’t publish the comment for two reasons:

    1. There’s no proof for the accusations.
    2. It does nothing to extend the discussion of the topic at hand.

    I have this conundrum quite a bit. Like you, the only comments I normally unpublish are self-promotional spam.

    This said, I have let a few questionable ones fly and responded with my own comment asking for substantiation or remarking about some aspect of the comment so that readers know I’ve seen it and allowed it to stay – and why I’ve done so.

  7. Tom, it is your blog and your rules. Your readers will follow your blog (or not) based upon the content you choose to provide or not provide. So I shouldn’t suggest what you should do as there are no consequences for me. However, if the comment were on my blog…

    My first instinct is to be wary of the commenter. If the commenter left an email, I would write him asking why he said this and ask for some examples. Also if he left his blog url, I would check out his blog and see if he was professional or not (probably not).

    If the commenter could not convince me that the blogger I had linked to was a horrible person and I was doing a disservice to my readers by linking to him, I would not approve his comment. And if he did convince me, I still would not approve his comment. I would comment myself, telling the readers that another reader suggested that this blogger was less than reputable and since I don’t know this blogger, “buyer beware.”

    So I wouldn’t publish it either way. Just one man’s opinion but one I respect. 🙂

  8. I wouldn’t publish it, but would ask the poster for more details (off-line) to verify their credibility and the substance of their complaint. If it checks out, and if the issue is important enough to you, check the person they’re complaining about for comment. You can always translate their rant into English (i.e., “This vendor didn’t follow through on their promises, overcharged me, etc. etc.”) But just passing on rantings adds no value to anyone, IMHO.

  9. I would stay to the cautious side on this and “Not” publish. I find that people change their opinions on a regular basis.

    More importantly, I agree with the other comments. It IS your blog, but if it’s not really doing anything positive, what’s the point of publishing? It could just be “bad blood” between former friends. No point in getting in the middle of that.

  10. Agreed Jayde. That was my instinct and certainly the way comments here are trending. If I knew the blogger to be a dishonest sort, I wouldn’t have published a link in the first place obviously. If the commenter had provided some evidence, rather than just vitriol, I may have been inclined to publish the comment even though it was negative. But as it is, I’m neither comfortable having the comment on my blog nor convinced that it adds any value to the conversation.

  11. I think I would, but edit the expletives. I’ve had a fun blogger register as a commenter, using a four letter word as his email address. I laughed out loud, it was so garish!

    It had to be published. I edited the word out as “[CENSORED]” and just had fun with it.

    Essentially the person had such a vitriolic loyalty to the competitor’s product that he found it necessary to register as [CENSORED]product…

    Too rich. Then again, I shoot from the hip, I don’t have a “professional” blog. It just depends on your target audience, and what brand you have.

    My “brand” is as blue collar as it gets – though I tend to eschew the vulgarities (present post being the only exception).

  12. I wouldn’t publish it, either.

    There is a way to frame negative reviews and opinions to provide insight and value to others – without resorting to personal attacks.

    I also wouldn’t want to contribute to a negative dialogue without having some proof or evidence to support the claims.

  13. In many ways, a lot of what is posted online–particularly as regards blogs–boils down to ‘opinion.’ You have yours, so does the Commenter.

    While I agree with the general sentiment expressed by Linda, it is ‘generally’ not feasible for me to properly vet every site I may elect to link to. Nor is it reasonable to expect everyone who comments on a blog, including this one, to ‘prove’ validity as Ardath suggests.

    In many cases it boils down to the nature, reputation, and ‘brand’ of the host site. If your site tends toward the dark, the gritty, the nasty, then the comment may fit right in. If like my own blog, you’re driving toward a certain standard, then the comment is absolutely unacceptable.

    No absolutes. I expect for 99% of all contexts though, this post is hard to swallow.


  14. Thanks for the comment JT. This post is as close as that comment will come to ever being posted. If the blogger in question is innocent of the charges, then his reputation won’t be sullied here. If on the other hand he really is a scoundrel, then his misdeeds will catch up to him regardless.

  15. My first reaction was: when in doubt, don’t.

    Having said that, we have to realise that people are not stupid, and they do not believe all they read. You have to give your readers the benefit of the doubt: they should be able to distinguish between an inflaming opinion and a well-reasoned objective opinion… shouldn’t they?

    On the other hand… hmm. I would leave it out.