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Should All Great Blogs Have A Comments Policy?

976655_let_us_talkRecently, Holly left a comment that brought out a few points. I wanted my readers to address her question, and so I posted that question. In the process of doing so, I realized that her comment (and a few others lately) raised a key question for me as to whether or not I should have a codified Comments Policy for So You Want To Teach?

As I’ve been working my way through Darren’s 31 Days to Build A Better Blog project, I’ve been analyzing a lot of things on my site. I’ve come to realize that there are a few things lacking on my blog that a lot of the great blogs I read out there have. With Holly’s question about how the comments can be used, and in light of my recent deletion of some seemingly innocuous comments, I have been bouncing around the idea of formally writing down my Comments Policy.

Over the next week or two, I anticipate finalizing it, and getting it out there for everyone to see. In researching this, a few of the sites I’ve come across include:

Some of the Comments Policies I’ve found on some of my favorite blogs inclide:

Something interesting that a few blogs have done is to Uncopyright (Open Source) their blog content. These include:

So I’m going to throw this one back out to you.

  1. Do you have a Blog Comments Policy?
  2. Why? Why not?
  3. Is it something you look at or even think about before you post a comment on a blog?
  4. Does a blog having a Comments Policy help you trust the blog more or less?

Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

Joel Wagner
Joel Wagner (<strong><a href="">@sywtt</a></strong>) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. <strong><a href="">So You Want To Teach?</a></strong> is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

23 thoughts on “Should All Great Blogs Have A Comments Policy?

  1. Most comment policies deal with what kind of comments are acceptable on the blog, not with the ways those comments might be used. It’s an interesting question, and I’m not even sure it’s the one you’re really asking here – but can a blog owner claim rights to comments left on the blog? I always resent it when a corporation’s fine print says something like, “We welcome your correspondence and reserve the right to reprint it or use it in any way we want to without further credit or compensation to you.” Comments are copyrighted by their authors; I haven’t yet run across a blog that tries to claim otherwise, but the idea presents some intriguing issues.

  2. I think as long as we give the writer credit for a comment, it is okay to use his words in a post. I love comments from readers. It makes me feel like others are out there and care about what I write. When I first started making comments on other blogs, I was so nervous that I might make a mistake or say something wrong. There are bloggers that I still find very intimidating.

    1. Intimidating. That’s the adjective people who don’t know me well use most often to describe me. Go figure. C’mon over to my blog, Betty, and get over it. ;)

      I should point out that I’m NOT the Holly that’s mentioned in this post. That took me aback for a moment!

      I think it’s fine to quote comments made in our blogs IN our own blogs – but would you feel the same about a blogger using your comments in a published book? Part of copyright is the right to determine when, where, how, and by whom your writing is used. You post in my blog, you’ve already given me the right to display your comments there. For me to quote you, in order to answer, clarify, or expand upon a point seems fair enough (at least in practicality, if not under the letter of the law). But I think using comments out of context requires the author’s permission, or a sort of click-through license agreement that the commenter is alerted to and must affirmatively agree to before posting comments.

  3. Interesting discussion. I don’t think that I have a claim for the intellectual property of the comment, but I know that as the website publisher, I have been given full (perhaps limited) permission to display the comments on the site.

    I love the conversation that goes on as a result of comments, and I have frequently pulled a comment or email and turned it into a post all of its own. I also get guest posts sent to me and have posted them on numerous occasions. I just wonder how far that implied permission really can (or even should) go.

    As I wrote above, I am going to be drafting a Comments Policy in the next few weeks, so the ideas that you can share are tremendous in helping me both ensure that I use them appropriately, and also preventing me (or anyone else) from abusing them or going beyond the fair use of the intellectual property.

  4. Shoot, I better go shave. The “Copywite Police” must surely be on the way. Wonder if the copywrite prisons are better than the “Pot smoker’s prisons.”

  5. gYM334 and anon seem to have missed the point, which is that when your comments contain content that someone might want to use in a scholarly paper, it might be good to have a Comment Policy in place that says “By posting here, you agree that your comments may be used in…” but as anon says, you need to make sure your readers are aware of it and have explicitly agreed to it, if you intend to modify standard copyright beyond the obvious assumed consent to display their comments publicly on your blog.

    Which is NOT, I think, what everyone else has been talking about with regards to a “comment policy” (which usually deals with what’s appropriate and what is subject to being nuked – and is generally unnecessary unless it’s a government-run blog and might reasonably be considered a “public forum”).

  6. “which is that when your comments contain content that someone might want to use in a scholarly paper,”

    You’re right Holly, I did not realize that scholarly work was sourcing Blogs. I guess I thought that this TeacherLingo site was a place for real teachers to exchange ideas. Kind of a place where teachers who spend most of their working life alone in their classroom occupied with kids could chat up ideas.
    . I guess that what enticed me to blog here was that it was way the other side of scholarly. Kinda like, you know, real:) Besides, I always figured that my carelessness with spelling, grammar, and coherency would be enough to protect me from scholars:):):):)

  7. Blogs would be a legitimate primary source for…some things. ;) Your spelling, grammar, and coherency are okay – but those redundant emoticons are kind of off-putting to real scholars.

    Thank goodness those days are behind me! <:}}}{{<<<

    Why, yes, that WAS a trout – why do you ask? :P

  8. I am fortunate in that it is difficult to comment on my blog: one must first become a member of the site.

    I have engaged commenters. Sometimes the comments even became the core of a later post with extensive quoting. I view comments as a conversation so to use the comments is simply to continue to conversation.

    I have occasionally deleted comments, but only those which I found offensive in some way. I don’t have a firm definition of “offensive.” My feeling is that disagreement means I’m pushing buttons and saying something. I love disagreement on my blog, especially vocal disagreement!

    I don’t allow personal attacks, foul language, crude reproductive references, and the like. I insist the conversation on my blog remain civil.

    But nothing is codified and I suspect I’ve been inconsistent. Fortunately my readers are mostly civil people.

  9. I think you’re allowed to be inconsistent – it’s your blog. If your gut says, “Nuke it,” then it should go.

    I used to require registration before people could comment, and I would hold for approval the first two comments of any new user. Now, I’ve moved my blog and the software does this filtering for me, for the most part. I know I don’t like having to keep track of a different user ID and password each time I want to make a passing comment on someone’s blog, but I don’t mind using OpenID or something similar.

  10. “emoticons” I did not know that was what they are called. I am not sure I could write on the web without them:)You guys are so fun. I just love teachers:)

  11. Yep! They used to be strictly ASCII, but not come in cute little colorful graphics – some are even animated. I once attended a lecture where a woman who had clearly JUST learned of the existence of the fascinating phenomenon known as “emoticons” expounded upon them at nauseating length… “And they’re called ee-MOTE-eye-cons,” she said, her voice rising several octaves on the “MOTE” part of the word. “Like this one: :) – See? Can you tell what that is? It’s a smiling face…”

    The guy next to me had the original “WTF?” look on his face. I whispered to him, “Cock your head over onto your left shoulder, like the RCA Victor dog. Now look really hard…”

    “Oh, sh*t.”

    “Yep, an ASCII smiley face.”

    We both got up and left the lecture hall. We had already stayed longer than social politeness required.

    ASCII silly question, get a silly ANSI… (the computer science teachers may be the only ones snickering at this one)

    1. Ahh, the good ol’ days. I remember the first time I saw one back in the early 90s. Most people had absolutely no clue what they were. Now I see kids writing them in the notes they write to their friends!

    2. More annoyingly, they think they INVENTED the darned things. Yeah, like Al Gore “invented” the Internet! Smack ’em with a trout! <<

      l337 and txting they can keep. My daughter’s boyfriend is both amused and amazed by my text messages. “Your mom uses SEMICOLONS in her text messages. Who does that?”

    1. Betty, I use it – doesn’t mean I can explain it well!

      See this site:

      My provider is Blogger. (If you have a blog on Blogspot, just go to your Settings > OpenID) There are other providers, and not all sites use it for authentication, but it’s nice when they do since it provides a single, secure logon ID and doesn’t require you to register individually at each site.

  12. Holly, I’m not a computer science teacher (although I have worked in the technical support industry), but I’ve used puns playing off the pronunciation of ASCII (I think mine was “ASCII, and ye shall receive”).

    To the topic: I don’t think I’ve ever cared about a comments policy. For one, I assume that most people who might care to use my materials (unlikely, in my opinion) will either use it because it’s on the Internet or will ask my permission for it. If I didn’t want people to use what I’ve written, I’d publish it in print rather than online. (Not that I would ever expect people to buy it! I’m fortunate to get readers as it is.) If someone posts something that is obviously meant primarily to plug their site and not to engage in substantive discussion or respond to the content of what I’ve written, then I’ll take it off, and I might remove comments that are incendiary or which contain profanity, but that’s about it. I’m pretty open to whatever people have to say, and I’m so used to assuming that free and open discourse is the norm (despite knowing plenty of places where it’s not) that I don’t even feel compelled to make that obvious.

  13. GB, this is why “Creative Commons licensing” came about. Because while you may be “flattered” to have someone steal your work (and many people are), that’s just not how copyright law works. Those of us who make a living as writers aren’t “flattered.” If we give explicit permission to use our writing freely, that’s one thing – but that permission is NOT given merely by the act of posting on the Internet, an act that does, in fact, constitute “publication.” It’s not some inferior, special class of publication where the standard intellectual property rules don’t apply, but that misconception is so prevalent that it confuses people and gets them into trouble. It also creates animosity towards a law that’s designed to protect original, creative works and their creators. It protects the creator’s right to determine when, where, how, by whom, and in what context their original expressions – words, art, music, photos – can be used.

    I don’t mind being quoted, but I’m not flattered, honored, or tickled pink – not in the least – to have my writing ripped off and replicated on some splogger’s site so they can rip off Google AdSense advertisers. I’m not pleased and excited to see my words on some porn site. I’m not playing – and you shouldn’t, either. At least consider spelling out what uses of your work are acceptable and what are not. Copyright also protects your right to freely give it away if you want to – or to let others use your work freely provided they give you credit – or to let others use your work on the condition that they study hard and be good to each other. You know? It’s yours, and it has value. Just like money – you can save it, spend it, or give it away – but I’ll bet you’re not happy if someone breaks into your house and steals it to buy drugs.

    1. Once back in the day, I had a personal website. One of the other music students at my university copied the layout and content almost verbatim. All he changed was some of the details (name, etc.). It was frustrating to say the least.

      Ultimately there’s very little we can do to prevent that kind of stuff, nut establishing a policy can give ground to stand on should such a problem arise.

      I did email him, ask him to change it, and pointed out my copyright at the bottom of the page. It was flattering but also kind of surreal!

  14. Copying some basic HTML is okay, but copying complex, customized layouts, photos, and other content without the site owner’s permission is not. In the early days, that was about the only way – certainly the best way – to learn HTML, and most of us were happy to share basic HTML layout code, background tiles, textures, etc. But why would anyone WANT their site to look just like someone else’s? To mislead visitors and gain popularity on someone else’s coattails? Seems kind of sleazy. When I see a layout I really admire, I try to think of ways I could use its structure but change it to be all my own. After all, there are only 26 letters in the English alphabet – there’s bound to be some copying. But the specific arrangement of those letters over a few sentences, or paragraphs, is art.

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