Thursday, November 25, 2010

Make the Most of Online Comments

Working out online comments to a writer’s advantage can be beneficial to themselves, their article, and their website overall. But for that to happen, they must know how to influence users and the entries they submit. One technique is done indirectly through the article while another is having control over the comments.

But first, how exactly can a comment help writers, bloggers, and columnists alike?

(As I have said in my previous post “Understanding Online Comments,”) analysis of feedback can help refine an author’s writing style, revise inaccurate or misleading details in a published work, and learn other standpoints for a topic.

Having quite a number of comments on an article also means a steady buzz and interest within the audience. They attract more readers and extend the longevity of the article. Thus, the tone of the comments matters. For instance, gaining a generally disapproval of the arguments mentioned in the article may lower the writer’s reputation. The structure and content quality also affects how long the discussion of the article remains active.

So how can a writer obtain, maintain, and control a favorable amount of positive quality feedback?

Influence through your Pen and Paper

The first option available is done indirectly: It is when you actually write your article. Looking forward for promising feedback requires excellent writing skills and a writer’s knowledge about themselves and their readers. Also, the following must be considered:

Have the users refrain from commenting on word choice, grammar, punctuations, etc and instead focus on the issue itself by providing them an exceptional composition that has been proofread and reviewed.

Being aware of one’s own background, affiliation, and experience helps a writer identify their own prejudiced view of an issue. This also applies towards the targeted audience’s background, affiliation, etc. By being aware, a writer stays politically correct in their ideas.

A writer wanting to hear comments that specifically deal with a certain part of their article will to be detailed and thorough in that particular part of the article to attract attention.

Comments Systems

Another method is done through direct control of the submitted online comments. Various blog services and web hosting providers supply site owners a number of useful techniques when dealing with comments. The following are the most common, from light to heavy control:

Word Filter. Thanks to the anonymity online and having no fear for consequences, users freely express their opinions albeit insulting and insensitive to the writer and readers. Using word filter, words and/or phrases are censored, keeping the site and the comment thread free of vulgarity. This basic method is easily bypassed however by merely substituting a single character or two in a word. It then becomes unknown to the word filter but still comprehensible by the readers.

Report Abuse. In another system, a link named “Report Abuse” is supplied in every comment entry. Once clicked by users who deem a comment offensive, the entry will be subject for removal. The removal process however is left to the moderator’s decision. The problem here lies to the moderator’s devotion in handling the reported comments and their own judgment. The system can also be abused by users reporting even acceptable comments.

Vote ranks and elimination. Comment ranking is prominent in a dynamic comment system (Comments here are moving, not static.). Entries are sorted according to their ratings, with the highest rated comment displayed first (or at the top) while low rated entries moved down, minimized or even removed. The system works best when many participate in voting, especially when comments are abundant. Moving the position of comments based on ratings discourages trolls and incessant exchange of insults but also lessens further discussion between useful entries.

Manual review. If a writer wants supreme power over all submissions, they can choose to decide whether an entry is acceptable for display or not. Manual reviewing is not efficient however on a large number of submissions. Chances are only the comments submitted earlier may be reviewed and subsequent but better entries are ignored. On the other hand, at least offensive comments are not displayed without prior approval as well (unlike in Report Abuse). The abuse of this system is up to the writer (the reviewer) themselves. With the desire to only display purely positive comments to improve their article’s image, they may not include constructive criticisms.

Many of these systems are subject to bias however; Different users have different criteria for a vote, rating or decision and many do not practice fair judgment. Hence criticisms that are helpful and well structured may not see the light of day.

Be Among the Crowd

A third option to generate positive feedback is through participation of the writer in comment discussions. While being lenient to submitted criticisms and even offensive feedback, they can then reply and defend themselves and their article to convince these naysayers into agreeing with them. Among others, their participation can help clarify their points of view and cite examples or explanation in case someone asks. Nonetheless, there may be issues involved in an article where a number of users will always disagree with the writer. What is left then is identifying the reason for the disagreement and providing an appropriate response. These are done perfectly by exercising an impartial attitude when reading and answering comments. Writers can directly keep the discussion healthy and faithful to the topic in case someone veers off the topic, to boot.

Comments, be it online or obtained from friends in the real world, is essential in exchanging ideas. Access to a certain feedback a writer will want to hear, however, requires careful choice in their style and actions.

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