Comment Graffiti: Art or Vandalism?

Squashed wrote an interesting post comparing blog comments to graffiti, suggesting that there are similarities between the two, and that having high hopes for quality comments on blogs is an exercise in frustration:

The part that sometimes surprises me is that a lot of people get quite upset about the nastiness of comments on other people’s blogs. To me, this is sort of like complaining that a limerick written on a toilet stall door is obscene and poorly-spelled. Of course it is! Were you reading a stall door looking for literature? It’s possible you could have uncovered the work of one of the world’s great, constipated poets. But that’s certainly not what you should have expected.

As someone who does get upset about the nastiness of comments on other people’s blogs, I have a hard time agreeing with Squashed on this one. The reason being that publishers (bloggers, newspapers, etc.) have the ability to decide what’s acceptible on the platform they provide. While you can’t control what people say elsewhere, you can certainly control what people say on your own site. It’s your site.

As I’ve shown before, Andy Post at Minnesota Democrats Exposed has taken an editorial stance that allows for racist, violent, and downright distasteful comments to be posted to his blog. To me, the type of commenting graffiti Post hosts looks more like graffiti vandalism than graffiti artwork, but our tastes may differ.

Comment graffiti is not something that publishers have to tolerate on their own site. It’s up to publishers to decide what level of civility they consider tolerable on the platform they provide to commenters.

Captain Capitalism and Blog Comment Policies

[Update (Wednesday): Captain Capitalism has now posted my comment, so the example no longer hold, but the rant outside of the example is still valid.]

Here’s something that bugs me about issues bloggers. You know, people who have a blog where they take a stance – political, economic, religious, etc. – and consistently publish information on that topic. So far, no problem. People can blog about whatever they want. What I have a problem with is the comment policies of some blogs in this category.

Here’s my take: If you’re going to host an issue blog, and if you’re going to allow comments on said blog, you should allow comments from anyone who’s willing to contribute an on-topic comment.

The incident that’s managed to get me worked up happened at a local blog called Captain Capitalism. The blogger is a fundamentalist capitalist who publishes commentary on the news of the day through his fundamentalist view. On a recent post, found here, he posted a graph from the Economist that shows Columbia’s economy improving over the time with the commentary:

“Again, it’s amazing what happens when adults take over.”

Captain Capitalism is clearly pleased with Uribe’s policies.

I decided to drop an on-topic comment mentioning that one of the “adult” decisions made by Uribe was to impose a 1.2% tax on the liquid wealth of higher income Columbians, and how different that is from the “sacrifices” George W. Bush has asked of America’s higher income citizens in a time of war – tax cuts.

My comment was moderated and never published by Captain Capitalism. It’s been two days, and he’s since posted another post to his site, so I don’t believe it’s a case of not getting to it yet.

In my opinion, Captain Capitalism and other bloggers like him/her should:

1. Remove the comments feature from their blog if they’re not going to allow them.

2. Or have a clear comments policy that says, “comments from people who don’t share my fundamentalist world view will not be posted.”

That way, people will know what they’re getting: rebuttle-less fundamentalist commentary. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just a little disclosure would be nice.

The Deets Update: Live Comments Preview

The Other Mike mentioned in the comments that things can get a little screwy when using symbols in comments. True dat. I figured a comments preview function may help to some degree. It doesn’t solve the larger issue, but it shows you what’s going to get all funny lookin’ if you keep it the way it is.

So, next time you write a comment, take a look just below the comments box for a preview of what you’re writing. This may be particularly useful for people who think they’re Herman Melville or something.

For the WordPress bloggers in the crowd, here’s a link to the comments preview plugin I used.