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Blog Struggles: When Are Too Many Comments Too Many Comments?

Blog Struggles badgeRecently, what appeared to be a thoroughly delighted fan went through my blog with a vengeance and left over 40 comments within a two day period. Each were personalized and directed to me, with enthusiastic comments and reflections on what was written.

At first I was pleased, as I always am when my blog touches and teaches, but after the eight consecutive comment, I began to get suspicious. Row after row of comments all from the same person filled my Comments panel. Wouldn’t you be suspicious?

Let’s assume this isn’t a clever human comment spammer and consider this is a person who is really thrilled with what they are finding and reading on your blog. Then ask yourself: When are too many comments, too many comments?

Begging for Blog Comments

Bloggers spend a lot of time thinking about how to provoke more comments on their blogs. We add “subscribe to comments” WordPress Plugins, comment feeds, and innovative comment methods to encourage comments.

WordPress Themes feature pleading phrases like “No comments yet. Why don’t you be the first?” or “Care to be the first one to jump into the fray?”

We write to challenge our readers, asking questions and writing combinations of words to encourage them to click away from their feed readers to jump into the pool and have their say.

When a conversation strikes between two or more of the commenters, we love watching the conversation grow, bantering back and forth, passing on ideas or exchanging spitfire. We rub our hands together with glee. We started something.

But what about the lone enthusiastic commenter who plows through your blog littering dozens of posts with kind words? They may or may not continue the conversation between you and the reader or the other commenters. But the words are all nice and pleasant, doing no harm. Just sitting there like a white pawn piece reaching the other side of the chess board. You know it’s a threat, but it’s a harmless pawn piece.

What do you do?

Perception Versus Reality

My perception was that this person was stuffing my Comment “inbox” with comments, trying to get my attention, or building up link juice, page ranking links.

The reality was that I’m the only one who can tell this person is spamming my blog with comments.

No one else sees my Comments panel. I don’t have a comments counter or public reward system that promotes who commented on what, when, and how often. I’m the only one bothered by all the comments, so who cares?

I care. That’s the problem.

And I’m suspicious and paranoid.

I’ve been doing this online stuff for too long. I’ve been abused with the best and worst of the abusers out there, and I have the callouses and scars to prove it. It’s natural that I’m suspicious of 40 comments by one person within a few days. That’s just strange.

I had many choices. I could ignore it and see if it continued. I could delete the ones that didn’t add to the conversation. I could also contact the commenter to find out their true intentions.

I chose the latter.

I emailed the commenter and thanked them for their comments and enthusiasm on my blog. I kept it neutral and asked if there was something in particular they were interested in that maybe they hadn’t found on my blog.

The response was clearly that of a naive, new-to-the-web youngster. I now knew my enemy and it was a young girl discovering blogging for the first time and just over enthusiastic. I can live with that.

We exchanged a few emails and finally I felt confident enough to mention the suspicions her many comments had originally aroused. She was embarrassed but it was a good lesson. She’s now a better commenter, leaving comments that continue the conversation not just say something to say something, and a much better blogger as she understands more about how important the conversation is on a blog.

Judging a Comment

With all the comment spam that attacks our blogs daily, along with “nice people” craving link juice in comments, it’s easy to get suspicious and paranoid about comments. In time, I’ve come up with a filter list that helps me better evaluate whether or not to keep a comment or trackback on my blog.

  • What is it really saying?
  • Does it continue the conversation?
  • Will my readers benefit from the comment?
  • Can I look at this comment for the rest of my life?

If it passes that quick test, then it stays. Especially if it passes the last question in the test. Everything else can be deleted, or if appropriate, marked as comment spam. Life is too short to struggle over idiot commenters on my blog.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network, and author of Blogging Tips, What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging.

17 Comments

  1. Posted October 31, 2007 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    You know of course that this is a problem that many of us wish we had.

  2. Posted October 31, 2007 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    I do not receive that many comments overnight, but what I usually do is visit the commentator’s site/blog to determine whether the comment is valid. And if the site is a splog, I mark the comment as spam even before you can say “SPAM”. LOL.

  3. Posted October 31, 2007 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    @David LaFerney:

    This “problem” may be something you never experience, but for the some, the excitement of even getting a comment is tarnished when these things happen. It’s still something to consider if and when it happens to you.

    Pelf: Visiting the blog to check it’s “legitimacy” is critical, whether numbers are high or low. There are many days when my only visitor is spam, no matter what assumptions people make about my blog’s popularity. When legitimate comments come through, and turn out to be splogs or link juice lovers, it really sucks.

    I wish I didn’t have to be paranoid about comments, but here we are.

  4. Posted October 31, 2007 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    Lorelle,

    Nice message!

    lol – Thanks for reminding me about contacting the author. I usually reply to comments with comments, check comments on the panel against ‘looks like they read the post’, ‘doesn’t fit any spam profiles’. Something uncertain I check the link for a worthwhile destination before marking the comment as spam.

    I hadn’t thought specifically about ‘whether my readers would benefit,’ although that informally fell in with my check to see if the comment pertained to the post.

    The comments I linger longest over, are those that look most like real comments, but point to a splog or other unworthy destination, while saying nice things .. *sigh*

  5. Posted October 31, 2007 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Yep, paranoid. :D

    I’ve had a problem with too many comments before. A couple months ago I had a big StumbleUpon spike (over 10k visitors in one day) and there were like 10 comments per hour (or something crazy like that) coming on this one particular post. I ended up just posting huge mega-comments replying to each of the commentors.

  6. Posted October 31, 2007 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    40 enthusiastic comments from one commenter overnight…that’s not blogging, that’s stalking…

  7. Posted October 31, 2007 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Overreact much? Sorry. I think she was just catching up on the blog and reading old posts. You WANT someone doing that. It’s what makes people tell other people about your blog. And ultimately, it makes someone a ‘fan’ and fans are the best traffic generators…although StumbleUpon helps…

  8. Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    I have this problem frequently since my blog attracts a lot of young girls. Typically it’s the same issue as you, Lorelle, a young enthusiastic girl just commenting for the sake of commenting. I recently opened my forums back up (which were popular among the younger crowd when I first installed them a couple years ago), hoping to steer more conversation there. I have one thread called “Girls Can’t Play Football” with nearly 150 comments on it and counting. I’m trying to steer the “football girls” towards the forum, rather than trying to load a huge page full of comments. I also have at least 3 other threads with over 100 comments as well. Tough call sometimes.

  9. Posted November 2, 2007 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    @Patrick D.:

    There is catching up and reading old posts and then there is link spamming blogs. How do you know the difference? You often don’t.

    You are right, but we need to talk about the differences.

  10. Posted November 3, 2007 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    I can understand your reaction. I’d have been flattered initially and I’m sure I would’ve become suspicious after so many of them.

    Hats off to you, though, for investigating further which led to what sounds like a gentle and encouraging lesson for a new blogger. Unfortunately, there are some bloggers that probably would’ve pounced on the poor thing and scared her away from blogging.

    Note about true comment spammers…Didn’t take long for me to realize what lil charmers some spammers can be. I liken their “Wow! Great blog!” comments to “pick up lines” and get my own thrill outta smackin’ the “mark as spam” button. Yea, I know…not very ladylike, but, hey, they had it comin’ to ‘em.

  11. Posted November 5, 2007 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    EXCELLENT post, Lorelle! I have had this happen in the past when I could see people trying to get to the top spot of my “Top Commentators” widget. Usually it was someone I considered a friend, so I just ignored it. But if it was someone I didn’t know, I would be far more likely to just delete them.

    Although I never got 40 comments from one person in such a short time. Sounds like a good problem to have. ;)

  12. Posted November 8, 2007 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    This place is interesting enough for anyone who wants to know about wordpress. No wonder, a newbie got hooked to it. But sometimes people who have fans do have stalkers as well.

  13. Posted November 10, 2007 at 12:04 am | Permalink

    Well done for contacting the author and I think since the commenter was a young enthusiastic blogger going through your back blog posts I would have been relieved.

    I was wondering once you discovered she was a fan if you thought about your role as a type of mentor? If so have thought about the responsibilities this carries and does it have any particular influence on how you blog? I am a teacher so perhaps come at the idea of role models from a particular angle but would love hear your views.

    I can see how someone could leave a lot of comments on your blog if they were back reading it as often as I am reading I am mentally nodding in agreement with what you say. I don’t leave a comment because it would not add to conversation but I admit to the urge to and I am not a teenage girl.

  14. Posted November 18, 2007 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    I also applaud your good call and going back to the source. What attracted me to the title of your post was a tangentially related problem I had with the Subscribe to Comments plugin. I have one post–only one–with over 100 comments. At the end of September, enough of the commenters had subscribed to the comment thread that it triggered my webhost’s throttle. Anything over 50 emails sent in less than 5 minutes is suspected spam, and my email account was suspended. Sadly, I had to deactivate the plugin, as the post has a seasonal popularity and I didn’t want to disable comments on the post altogether.

    As far as I can determine, I have two alternatives. One is to have a link to the feed for that one comment thread. Someone more WordPress savvy than I has already told me how to do it. I just know that not as many people will subscribe to the feed as subscribed to the email notification, and all the previous commenters would have to re-subscribe to a new format.

    The other alternative is to move to a different webhost, one that will let me set my own throttle, such as Dreamhost. I will probably do that eventually, but that takes time and money.

    The plugin was easier than either of those alternatives, and I hate to give it up. I tried emailing the plugin creator, and tried asking for help on the WordPress Support forum, and got no response in either case.

    For my webhost, it’s not too many comments, but too many comment notifications.

  15. Posted November 18, 2007 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    @Kathy:

    I thought Mark fixed the email problem in the latest version. Check with him again. That was a common complaint.

  16. Posted December 14, 2007 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    Great catch as always! I had the same old bothering thought on rubbish comments scattering all over most frequently visited blogs. The language is hardly crafted well, mostly are just irrelevant compliments, or some unnecessary passing-by mambo-jumbo like, hi, oh good site, pertamax, etc.
    The idea behind blog comments are of course as you phrased building up link juice. Unfortunately, that seems to be the only reason most of the times. You can’t hope conversations are solidified in the comment pages, but at least, you can always be happy with some simple inspiring thoughts drowned in rubbish. Seeing the case, top commentors widget, if any, should not only rely on the quantity but also the quality behind. It means it must allow some custom pick on the good comment.

  17. Posted January 6, 2008 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    I think teens often comment the way they text: a lot!


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