Comments Closed: A First

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

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Today marked a first for our blogging effort here at the brown towers. [We decided to close comments on a post]( The nine days since that post went up have been something of an eye-opener for me. For one thing, I had no idea that there was such a strong and virulent hatred of social workers. For another, I’d mentally marked (almost certainly unfairly) *[Community Care](* as one of our “fluffier” titles – less likely to spawn a contentious debate than some of the others. I really hadn’t thought that one through, had I?

I’ve been exchanging e-mails with the community editor of Community Care (he blogs at Mad World) for much of the morning, and he reached a decision that is, I think, the right one, even though it doesn’t sit comfortably with me. While they were happy (well, fairly happy) to leave attacks on the magazine staff and the general social work profession up, and just about tolerated links to a BNP member’s site, comments in which the commenters made accusations (some of them very serious) about each other just seemed beyond the pale. And, as Simeon pointed out in his closing comments, they were well off topic.

Why doesn’t it sit comfortably with me? Well, I’ve never actually had to do this before, that I can recall. Generally, I’m in favour of moving to moderation if things become problematic, and just not publishing troublesome comments. However, I can see the arguments in favour of killing the discussion, based on both the time involved in monitoring the comments, and the sheer antagonistic nature of the comments made. It felt very much like an external argument was being continued within the comments on the blog.

But I’m never going to be completely happy, on principle, with the idea of killing a conversation.

Ah, well. The positive side of the experience is that a blog which barely received any comments at all pior to the “Daily Mail incident” is now seeing multiple comments on all the recent posts. I’m not quite clear on why this should be the case, as it’s not always the same people who were commenting on the problem post. My best guess is that it’s a combination of two factors: the greater attention drawn to the blog, thanks to the debate, and the sight of others leaving comments giving the lurkers “permission” to de-lurk and start commenting.

It’ll be very interesting to see if the comment volume holds up over the next few weeks.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.