Do You Need a Comments Policy?

I went for several years without a comments policy. But after a round of nasty comments last week, I decided I needed something to establish the “rules of engagement.”

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/ricardoinfante, Image #10970464

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/ricardoinfante

As you know, Web 2.0 is all about the conversation. But without a few simple ground rules, that conversation can turn into a shouting match that discourages others from entering into the fray.

So here is my comments policy for your consideration. (If you have a blog yourself, you are welcome to copy or adapt this policy for your purposes.)

  1. You may comment without registering. You can log-in via IntenseDebate, OpenID, Twitter, Facebook—or not at all. It’s up to you.
  2. You may post anonymously. I don’t recommend this, but you may do so if you wish. I may change this rule if it is abused.
  3. You may post follow-up questions. If you have a question, chances are you are not alone. Others are likely thinking similarly. Therefore, I would rather receive your comments on my blog than via email. It is a better use of my time to address everyone at once rather than answer several similar emails.
  4. You may disagree with me. I welcome debate. However, I ask that if you disagree with me—or anyone else, for that matter—do so in a way that is respectful. In my opinion, there is way too much shouting in the public square to tolerate it here.
  5. I reserve the right to delete your comments. This is my blog. I don’t have an obligation to publish your comments. The First Amendment gives you the right to express your opinions on your blog not mine.

    Specifically, I will delete your comments if you post something that is, in my sole opinion, (a) snarky; (b) off-topic; (c) libelous, defamatory, abusive, harassing, threatening, profane, pornographic, offensive, false, misleading, or which otherwise violates or encourages others to violate my sense of decorum and civility or any law, including intellectual property laws; or (d) “spam,” i.e., an attempt to advertise, solicit, or otherwise promote goods and services.

  6. You retain ownership of your comments. I do not own them and I expressly disclaim any and all liability that may result from them. By commenting on my site, you agree that you retain all ownership rights in what you post here and that you will relieve me from any and all liability that may result from those postings.
  7. You grant me a license to post your comments. This license is worldwide, irrevocable, non-exclusive, and royalty-free. You grant me the right to store, use, transmit, display, publish, reproduce, and distribute your comments in any format, including but not limited to a blog, in a book, a video, or presentation.

In short, my goal is to host interesting conversations with caring, honest, and respectful people. I believe this simple comments policy will facilitate this.

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/thejeffbrown Jeff Brown

    Simple, complete and dead-on. Next! :-)

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Jeff.

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  • http://www.ArtofEloquence.com JoJo Tabares

    As a teacher of communication skills, I find the anonymity of the internet allows people to be most disrespectful because they are not required to look their 'victim' in the eye when they trash him.

    I have an unwritten policy. Since it is MY blog, I do reserve the right to edit or delete a comment, but for some specific reasons. I never delete a comment just because it disagrees with my view.

    If it is respectful, I will allow it to stand. I may comment in response to clear something up or to respond but I will not summarily delete it.

    If someone uses foul language, it will be deleted or edited.

    If someone posts a link to a site that is inappropriate in my opinion, either the link or the entire comment will be deleted.

    If someone posts a comment of a very general nature, "I enjoyed your article, I will bookmark your site." I will generally delete it unless it is followed by something specific or is from a reader I have already approved. My blog is set to moderation for the first comment only. If you first comment is so general, I don't allow it as it then opens the door for spammers to post whatever they like. I especially love the ones that say, "Great article. You are a wonderful writer." in response to a video!!! lol

    If someone spams my blog, I will delete either the link, reference to or the entire comment depending upon what it is. I will leave it as is if it's just a link to something that doesn't compete with my products and is of use to my readers especially if it has something to do with the post. I will delete it if it sounds like the typical SPAM I receive daily in my inbox and has nothing whatsoever to do with the post.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      This is good stuff. My blog is wide open. I don’t moderate any posts until after the fact. I do get some spammers, but I delete them almost immediately.

      I also don't like CAPTCHA validation. I think ultimately this discourages commenting. I want it to be as easy as possible.

      • http://passionsforthesoul.typepad.com/vicki Vicki Small

        I never had a problem with spam comments on my blog, while I was using CAPTCHA, so eventually, I disabled that function. Then I started getting spam comments, so after a couple of months, I went back to the CAPTCHA.

        If you've ever looked at my blog, you probably noticed that I don't have a lot of comments. But I'm not inclined to attribute that to CAPTCHA, as comments did not increase (except for spam), when it was disabled.

        I like the policies both you and Ms. Tabares have shared.

        • http://www.therextras.com BarbaraBoucher PTPhD

          This is exactly true of my experience, too. CAPTCHA is simply a means of efficiency in managing my blog.

          • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

            My experience with CAPTCHA is different. I simply do not comment when this enabled. It requires too many steps. I think it does discourage comments.

            If you are using WordPress, you can install Askiment. It works behind the scenes and stops comment spam dead in its tracks.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/jonsmith Jon Smith

    Well said and easy to follow. It's a shame it has to be said at all though.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      So true. If people would police themselves, all would be well. Unfortunately, a few people make this kind of thing necessary.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Daniel_Tardy Daniel Tardy

      Jon, I agree that it shouldn't even have to be said at all. Why are people willing to do things online that they would never dream of doing in a public setting?

  • http://www.kristiejackson.blogspot.com Kristie Jackson

    Thanks for the impetus to consider this somewhat tedious but important topic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brianrfrench Brian French

    Never thought of this before, but it's a great idea. Pretty odd that you would generate nasty comments, seems like your blog is on the upper echelon of respecting others to begin with.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I usually don't get too many, but it depends on the topic. I do my very best never to delete comments, but some are over-the-top. I have probably deleted less than a dozen (other than spam).

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/KNicholls KNicholls

    I think this is a great list and have been trying to come up with something similar for my blog as I try to build it. Do you mind if others use your ideas here? Thank you, as always, for what you post and a do. Your posts are indeed a great add to my day.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      No, in fact, I said in the post, “If you have a blog yourself, you are welcome to copy or adapt this policy for your purposes.” Have at it!

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/KNicholls KNicholls

        Thank you so much! I skimmed to the meat of the post and completely missed that statement. My apologies!

      • Lisa – Defined Design

        Thanks Michael you are one of the most generous people on the internet – your tweets and blogs are always the highlight of my day – I encourage all those I care about to follow you.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/kParty kParty

    Great policies! I think these could be implemented in many forums/blogs for good, clean fun, as oppose to some of the snarky debates I've avoided over the years.

    And I'm not going to lie; every time I think the word "snarky" it is in a British accent.

  • http://twitter.com/RachelleGardner @RachelleGardner

    Nice policy, Mike. I've had one on my blog for awhile but it's not quite so official-looking. I may take some hints from this post and update it. Thanks!

  • http://observationsonceremoved.blogspot.com/ Tod Shuttleworth

    Like all good things that start out ruleless in the Wild West, bureaucracy must creep in when enough idiots get involved. Part of the process of going mainstream.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I know, I hate that!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/fogbound fogbound

    I never thought of this, but I can understand for you in your position and the quality of your blog, that you need some standards for the responses, call it censorship or whatever. It seems that the internet has become a place where people feel they have the freedom to say anything they want to in any form without repercussions. In Christian settings there has to be a standard. Thanks for that.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I think it is also a common misunderstanding with regard to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Free speech guarantees your right to speak without fear of government censorship. It does not obligate every privately owned newspaper, magazine, blog, etc., to print every article or comment submitted to them. But it does give those people the right to fund and publish their own communication vehicles.

      • http://passionsforthesoul.typepad.com/vicki Vicki Small

        Sadly, not nearly all of the vitriole, name-calling, profanity, stupidity, and so on, is limited to the Internet or to print media. We used to watch a political discussion program on Sunday afternoons, during lunch. Hardly a topic came up that didn't degrade to yelling at or over one or more of the other participants. And the head guy was as bad as his panel.

  • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

    Thanks for this, Mike. I was especially tickled to know the word SNARKY is in the dictionary. So cool!

  • http://www.roxanesalonen.blogspot.com Roxane B. Salonen

    Michael, so glad to see this, especially after I recently instituted a comments policy on my blog. I went a step further and will not publish any anonymous comments, even if they are nice anonymous comments. I'm too "old school" journalism, I guess, and though my blog is not a newspaper, I learned the old ways of not allowing anonymous sources into a news story. I would definitely publish comments if they disagreed with my opinion, but the conversation has to stay respectful. There is no reason for it to be otherwise. I'm glad we see all this in a similar light, and as some have said, it's a pity we have to say it at all. I view it as setting a healthy boundary. :) Also, I saw your challenge on Rachelle's blog asking an anonymous commenter why they don't use their name. I understand why some people don't, but I also think it's much more freeing to step out of the shadows and into the light. :)

  • http://frogblog.biz Fred H Schlegel

    Nicely put. I find #6 interesting. Is the ownership statement a way to deal with libel issues that potentially get raised when you are moderating?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/patalexander patalexander

    Michael, thanks for sharing your policy and being so generous as to allow us to use. I will share with a number of my clients as this is a big area of concern for them. You and your blog are such a great resource for new bloggers.

  • http://silentmornings.blogspot.com Liza

    I'd suggest adding: 1) When quoting a source, or linking to an online resource, provide the URL and give attribution where appropriate; and 2) stay on topic.

  • http://gavinknight.com Gavin Knight

    thanks Michael, I already had a comments policy but yours has given me some ways to improve it, much appreciated (ps, enjoy the fishing!)

  • http://meredith-morgan.blogspot.com/ Meredith Morgan

    The distinction between freedom of expression without government interference and freedom to express yourself anywhere you please is important. We have freedom of speech, but we also have the right to privacy and statutory protections for our safety. If someone comes into my home or my office and attacks me (physically or verbally), I will call the police and have them arrested. They can stand out in the street and yell and holler all they want. They might get arrested for disturbing the peace, but not for what they say about me.

    On a private blog (or publication of any type), the Editor/Author/Owner has the right to determine what gets published and what doesn't. Period.

    Personally, I don't think the comments policy needs to be written or communicated with the readers in any way, although it is a nice thing to do, showing respect for the readers and the Commenters who want to have a real conversation.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Laurinda Laurinda

    Thanks for this post. I'm a new blogger and currently my blog is set for moderation first comment only. Maybe I'll loosen this when I gain more readership and have an established reputation.

    I can't lie, after watching the comments fly on Rachelle Gardner's blog between you and "Anonymous" – I got freaked out. I'm shocked you are willing to allow anonymous comments after that incident.

    I never thought about having a comment policy. But would love to use yours. Thanks for letting us copy/adapt yours.

  • Rich

    Great tip and timing as well. I've been thinking of having such policy for my newly started blog. Thanks for the offer to copy/ adopt.

  • http://www.godmessedmeup.blogspot.com Pam Hogeweide

    i've blogged for about four years now and have mostly had a respectful dialog at my blog. the guidelines you have kindly provided here have evolved out of necessity for me (except the publishing legalese one of #7)

    Two things:

    Do not feed the trolls. They thrive on it.

    Snarky : What? I love snarkiness, which in my world is generally playful and more akin to friendly verbal sparring. It is not a negative thing in the circles I travel in. When I first noted your boundary of no snarky comments when I began reading your blog I thought, uh-oh, no sense of humor? But then I realized that is a matter of etymology. What snarky means for one person is not necessarily true for another perdon.

    I like this definition from Urban Dictionary:

    "A witty mannerism, personality, or behavior that is a combination of sarcasm and cynicism."

    That would be the dialect of my tribe!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/GotSpirit GotSpirit

    Thanks for sharing this! It's a great list! We borrowed and modified accordingly for our own website network! Thanks!!! – Sean R Reid / GotSpirit Network

  • http://macafee-antivirus.com macafee

    Always thought that your blog is one of the best in my bookmarks, and once again saw this

  • http://jojoagot.com/ Jojo Agot

    It's about time somebody make this list. Thanks Michael.

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  • http://blog.simpletruths.com Matt

    How do you feel about promotion in comments? I think it's okay if the promoted blog or site has something to do with the post or blog. For example, I manage and write for http://blog.simpletruths.com and I think that has a lot to do with your blog, Michael. So, I'm interested to hear your answer!

  • http://sharon-smith.blogspot.com/ sharon smith

    Thank you so much, Michael. It’s day 2 of my blog and I never thought I’d need such a thing, but then again, I never thought you wouldn’t either! Thank you also for letting the rest of us use or adapt yours… now I just need to work out how to add it! =)

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  • http://www.bigb94.webs.com Brandon

    It is sad that you have been getting comments that would lead to this… Unfortunately, not everyone abides by the rules. Good luck with these guidelines- they were dead on!

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com Cyberquill

    Nothing wrong with your ground rules per se, except I’m not sure by what mechanism exactly they will deter belligerent individuals from leaving “nasty” comments if they are intent on doing so.

    On an intuitive level, all of us bright enough to operate a keyboard and post comments in the first place understand (a) that we have no “right” for our comments to remain posted on someone else’s blog if the owner chooses to zap them for any reason, irrespective of whether or not such reason falls within the owner’s own stated ground rules, and (b) that the length of time a comment of ours will remain posted is, in all likelihood, inversely proportional to its nastiness level.

    I, too, posted Terms of Use on my blog, but mainly for entertainment purposes, not because I believe for one second that my request for visitors to be respectful when posting will discourage disrespectful individuals from spouting off, much like a No Shoplifting sign in a store is unlikely to prevent a sticky fingers from swiping a pack of gum, and a No Car Bombs sign in Times Square is unlikely to cause a terrorist with an explosive device in his backpack to abandon his plans.

    • http://blog.cyberquill.com Cyberquill

      I screwed up my link there. Perhaps I should learn how to spell my own website :)

  • http://cflemming.com/ripeforharvest/ Charles Stewart Flemming

    It appears you changed number 2?

  • http://jaledwith.com/ Andrew

     FYI — Your first rule seems to be from when you used IntenseDebate, not Disqus, for your comments.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, it was, but it also works for Disqus. You can post anonymously. 

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  • http://www.insidermonkey.com/hedge-fund/ hedge funds

    Funding of research by private companies is mainly motivated by profit,
    and are much less likely than governments to fund research projects
    solely for the sake of knowledge.

  • http://www.parasoloutlet.co.uk/ parasol umbrella

    Yap! I know this is nice. However, Disqus commenting system is best because the comments are save better then ever commenting system. I prefer disqus.

  • http://www.reconditionedgearboxes.org/ reconditioned gearboxes

    This is what I have been searching in many websites and I finally found it here. Amazing article. I am so impressed. Could never think of such a thing is possible with it…I think you have a great knowledge especially while dealings with such subjects

  • Guy

    You may want to add this:

    You grant me the right to produce derivative works from your comments,
    even if for our profit of which you will have no part, share, or claim
    for compensation in any way whatsoever.

    Also suggest adding this:

    Terms and conditions apply as stated in our terms and conditions, disclaimers, and policy documents. Errors and omissions expected. All rights not listed here are reserved.

  • Robertfranklin

    Thank you for investing in others by sharing your comments policy.  I plan on adapting it for my blog site.
    Dr. Robert Franklin

  • Bev

    Thank-you :) for sharing!

  • Barry Devlin

    Thanks for the generous contribution of your template Michael, I’ve adapted it for our site and have added a link for other users to bring to our attention possible infringement of the comments policy.