Friday, November 28, 2008

Responding to opposing and inappropriate comments

Most of the educators in my blogging training sessions are horrified about the potential of the use profanity, porn spam, or just plain ugliness in comments to their blog posts. They are also very timid about having to respond to  comments that completely oppose their viewpoints. They simply do not want to get into an online debate.

Usually I tell the participants who are learning to blog:

"Don't be scare of others' responses and don't be scared responding".

When others oppose our views, wonderful opportunities are created to provoke learning. When writing posts or comments that oppose others' views, be sure to stay: 1) professional, 2) credible, and 3) appropriate. Often, we should ask, what does the research indicate?

I also tell educators if they monitor comments, they simply do not have to post those that get ugly or use profanity. But, I warn them about being overzealous in monitoring comments that may portray them as being close-minded and not open to other viewpoints.

When someone posted a comment on 15 minute Showcase on Twitter (the post is about 6 months old--which seems really old in terms of blogging), I found myself in a dilemma. The comment was an opposite view, but used profanity.

Exactly it is:

Anonymous said...

Plain and simple - Twitter is the useless bastard son on Web 2.0,

Some say it is a troll

someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, with the intention of provoking other users into an emotional response or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion.

Most of the time, the appropriate response to a troll is to ignore it. I considered ignoring the comment. Who would notice the comment on a post that is 6 months old? I could delete the comment. After all, the use of bad language would warrant the deletion.

I had other choices, too.  Could I post a comment including the content but bleak out the words? Could I find a way to show usefulness of Twitter without going into combat? I saw the comment as a teachable moment.

Though it had really bad language, I sent a Twitter message--bad language and all:

anyone want to respond to comment "Plain & simple-Twitter is the useless bastard son on Web 2.0,"? See post Twitter":

This was risky approach; it was a troll.

Within a couple of hours of the tweet, I had:

  • more comments to the post (1 one of those from someone who has never commented on a blog before)
  • comment to my Facebook status
  • Twitter replies
  • An increased number of visits to my blog

Lessons learned:

  • Don't get sucked into a troll techniques. "Don't feed the trolls."
  • Look for teachable and learning opportunities when engaging in online conversations.
  • Remove the emotion when writing opposing viewpoints -- list facts and use reasonable explanations.
  • Search for alternative ways to address opposing and inappropriate comments.
  • Use methods of addressing comments that work for you.
  • Learn to comment on blogs.
  • Avoid leaving anonymous comments. Most of the time anonymous comments are thought to be cowardly. Also, there is no way continue the conversation when you don't identify yourself. 
  • Use Twitter to ask questions. 
  • Make Twitter what you want it to be: fun or useful. For me, it's both.
  • Use a variety of tools to share and engage: For instance, my blog and Twitter were both used to make a point. And one person commented in Facebook.
  • Let others do your talking. When I asked the question on Twitter, I knew some would answer the question in ways differently than I would have. People were expressive. In fact, most of this list was developed by what I learned from those who commented. Tags: ,


Floyd Davenport said...

Excellent post Anne. Very helpful to those working with staff about blogging.

Anonymous said...

I think about what you said as applicable to many conversations including in person and on the phone.
"When others oppose our views, wonderful opportunities are created to provoke learning. ... stay: 1) professional, 2) credible, and 3) appropriate. Often, we should ask, what does the research indicate?"

And your point of often we choose to ignore the remarks...frequently not the best response whether blogging or talking to someone.

In blogs and face to face conversations, we need to listen to others and feel free to express alternate views.

Thanks for the post.

Unknown said...


Your are right about approaching "in person" opposing views with professionalism, credibility, and appropriately.

I don't mean to imply that it is appropriate to ignore opposing views in the online environment. In fact, I encourage people to address opposing views.

However, the general suggestion is to ignore trolls. The purpose of trolls is invoke emotion and divert the purpose of the discussion, thus ignoring trolling attempts maybe best. New bloggers may feel more comfortable ignoring them rather than engaging them.
However, there are alternative ways of addressing trolls.

In face-to-face conversations that invole important issues, we should also address opposing views. However, when emotions run high, then we should back away from the emotion and continue the conversation keeping the purpose of the discussion in mind.

I like your point about listening. Often we don't see the web as a place to listen, but the web gives us great way to listen and learn from others, and of course, provide alternative views.

Lynette, thanks for your comments.