It has been almost one full year since the first part of Valerie’s interview was conducted. Valerie is the owner of and writer at Spoken-For.org . When I started interviewing Valerie about her site, most of the focus was on how she handled comments on her website and what her commenting and related ethical principles were.
Valerie is the author of several high-traffic articles which have gathered a lot of attention from online readers. One of the most famous posts, and controversial in the minds of many, is called Why Geek Squad, Best Buy, and Compaq all suck. Because of the number of comments Valerie has gotten in the past and continues to get, I found/find it extremely important to see how Valerie views and deals with comments, since she runs into many different types of commentors on a regular basis.
Part 1 of the interview can be reviewed so you can catch up where we left off last time. There were 7 questions in part 1. There are 10 questions here today. Valerie was very patient with me and was more than happy to help me finish the 2nd part of this interview, even though she was busy with something very important that is mentioned in the very last question of this interview. So here you go:
Interview with Valerie of Spoken-For – Part 2
- Question: What is your usual procedure for addressing offensive or attacking comments? Do you treat all offensive or attacking comments in a similar fashion or do you treat each comment and commentor differently?
Yeah, sometimes. There have been ones who keep coming back and spewing the same bad attitudes. Sometimes it takes me a while to get tired of them and ban them. I guess it depends on how much they entertain me. However, if they use bad language, too, rather than just being rude or mean, I’m more apt to get tired of them faster. If I remember, I also edit out all bad language, with stars, or asterisks.
- If, hypothetically, the number of personally attacking comments constitute the majority of the comments you receive, would you consider closing down comments completely as one of your options?
I may place moderation on comments all the time to avoid any real visitors and subscribers from being spammed with attacks like that or profanity but I don’t think I would be one to completely close down comments or move my site (like I have seen many people do). But again, by the most part, my blog is a personal blog and it’s not a very popular one, so this isn’t something that I think I really have to worry about. Most commentors are civil.
- You have your own online candle business called Little-Light. In your view, are offending and disagreeing commentors on your blog the same as dissatisfied and unhappy customers? Would you treat both the same, or differently?
No, I don’t think that they are the same. My customers are paying for a product that they expect to be good quality while my blog readers get my sass for free. I really want to make my customers happy, it is, after all, a business, and while I’d love to have every blog visitor to be happy, that’s just not possible. Even if you only discuss non-confrontational issues, someone somewhere is going to be offended in some way! I try to treat everyone with the same respect that I wish to be treated with, but, granted, that can be kind of hard when you’re constantly shielding the same poisoned arrows coming from the same areas. Plus, the disagreeing commentors are everywhere while I’ve only had one unsatisfied customer since I started with my candles in 2004.
- You have also had the opportunity of having your own online stalkers who were once your loyal readers and commentors. What happened, and how did you deal with them? Any offline threats?
The biggest stalker was a 13-year-old girl who, for some strange reason, was completely obsessed with me so she followed me everywhere online and harassed me. She even stole my website designs and went so far as to submit one to the Open Source Web Design (oswd.org) website once.
However, she was always harmless (thankfully) and the thing that most freaked me out was when she called me on the telephone in late 2005. I just kept blocking her where I could and making known to the world what she was doing to me while doing my best to ignore her directly. It seems juvenile now, of course, to have posted nearly everything she sent me but my postings did save some people from heartache when they would Google an email address or her name, etc. She eventually slowed down trying to contact me and I haven’t heard from her now in probably two years (she’d harassed me for somewhere right around two years). She’s still out there, I see her comments on others’ blogs sometimes, but she’s pretty identifiable and I’ve not seen her around my stuff lately.
The others were minor, a company’s employee’s wife, for example – just commenting on many posts in an attacking manner. I blocked her IP and haven’t heard from her since. The others are very similar.
- What is your view about banning readers, commentors, confirmed stalkers or deleting comments?
I pretty much feel that if you have a website, it’s your website and you can do whatever you want as long as it’s not illegal. People who continually come to harass the author or other commentors (have had that, too) just are simply not welcome. I like healthy discussion and debate but there is no room for slander. If someone is just being nasty, they bring everyone else down. If a website’s owner feels uncomfortable with someone’s presence, then there’s no reason they should feel guilty about banning that person or deleting their comments, etc. Not to mention there may be other reasons for deleting comments or banning someone besides stalker-like behavior.
- Have you ever closed down comments completely on any post, or deleted comments from some posts?
The only time I have ever close down comments completely was when I had a spam problem. This has been a couple of years ago and for some reason some certain posts were getting spam trackbacks and pingbacks that were getting by my protection so I closed comments on about five posts that were just day-to-day posts. (Of course, since then my spam problem has been taken care of.) There was a time when I approved all comments whether nice or not as long as they weren’t spam and would either ignore or respond to them accordingly. However, my view of that has changed in the last year and on controversial posts I may state after a while that I welcome healthy discussion but if you just come to attack me or other commentors or are full of profanity your comment may be subject to editing or deletion.
The most I have ever edited on comments would be URLs that were long and broke my site’s layout at the time (or just plain looked bad), removed URLs that were spam from otherwise valid comments, and starred out profanity. I decided that it is my site and no one but me has the right of free speech on it. I don’t need my family or friends stumbling on that type of language and thinking I condone it (one of the two regular family visitors is a 12-year-old as well). Some of the more harmless words I will let by, but the “f-word” absolutely is not allowed on my site or other sexually explicit words. I have also edited out the personal addresses that people have posted before, both email and also a household address that people have posted of someone they believed to be an identity thief (but this person is most likely a victim himself).
I also went through at one time and deleted a lot of comments from the Geek Squad and DHL posts that were just contributing nothing to the conversation. Deletion, however is not a common practice for me.
- Some people may say that rudely responding back to people who attack you can be a bit harsh, while others may say that doing so is the only way to keep personal attackers under check and at bay. What is your view on that?
Why would it be harsh to respond to someone who attacks me? It’s all in the manner /in which/ I respond. Harsh or not, I have that prerogative. As far as keeping personal attackers under check – that’s just not possible. As I mentioned before, no matter what you say or do, you will offend or tick of someone somewhere. They may respond, they may not. There’s no way to control what other people think, say, or do. The only thing you can do, if you are offended at people who attack you, is to delete their comments and not let it get to you.
- Is there anything related to comments or commenting that you wish you would not have done? Would you be willing to keep something you already have? If you had a chance to go back and change anything on your site, like restarting from scratch, what would you do differently than what you have done?
No, I don’t think so. In retrospect, it’s just a blog and a really small part of my life. I don’t think there’s anything that was/is big enough for me to say I would change.
- When the first part of this interview was published, it was in March of 2008, almost a year ago. Since then, there have been many new developments in your online and offline life, and also in the blogging world. Do you have any new or changed ideas or policies regarding comments for this year, or are they still the same as before?
Nope, I don’t think so, I think it’s all the same.
- You now have a new welcome site for your new baby who is on the way! That will make you not only a Mom blogger but also a new-mom blogger too! Do you have any advice on other parent bloggers on how they can shuffle between their offline responsibilities and dealing with all people [good and bad] in the online world?
I would just say do what you’re comfortable with. If you don’t want to deal with the bad, just delete it and move on. No reason those things should affect your “real” (offline) life, you and your family is ore important. As far as the good, just treat others as you want to be treated. Visit the sites of those that visited you, even if it takes you a couple of weeks to do it. But, really, the offline stuff comes first. Family first, then have some fun on the internet if you want!
- Valerie, thank you so much for your time and for being patient! This interview has taken more than a year to start and finish due to my other activities and appointments, and I really appreciate you taking the time to answer all of my questions and for allowing me to keep on bugging you about this interview and to actually interview you. Thank you also for taking the time during your pregnancy to talk to me and to help me finish this interview.
From blog readers to business customers, Valerie from Spoken-For.org deals with commentors, readers and visitors of many different kinds online
Combined with Part 1 of this interview, many bloggers, commentors, readers and other online people can find out and learn of the different trends and ways of how commentors views online bloggers, and what kind of options are available to bloggers. Valerie has to manage and has been dealing with comments from regular visitors, supporters, inquirers, spammers, attackers, and many other kinds of online readers for many years now. One of the most important things in this interview indirectly revolves around the concept of a reader having some indirect obligations towards the blogs and bloggers they encounter, a point which is greatly ignored or missed by many online people.
That is the end of the interview. I hope you all find it interesting and can offer your input, comments, questions or anything else that you wish. A final closing post regarding the entire interview will be posted soon, hopefully within a week. In that post, I will summarize and outline many points related to comments, commenting, comment replies and related things that can help you on your online adventures as a commentor, a blogger, both, or something else.
Thank you, again, Valerie, for taking the time to answer these questions.
Thank you for reading, and if you have any questions, comments, or any thoughts about this interview or anything related to it, please go ahead and post in the comments below.Follow @besz