The Challenge of Comment Moderation in a Spiteful World
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Moderating blog comments — the triage to weed out spam and such before making submitted comments visible to the public — can get complicated. Obvious spam is easy (delete it), as are obviously on-topic relevant personal comments without links (approve it). But there's a lot in between.

In particular, if there's a link you have to consider where it goes, and the commenter's purpose for including the link. On one end of the spectrum, spammers will just copy the text of a previously-approved comment and add a link to a site they're spamming for. Or someone will write something that at first appears to be relevant, but in such a generic way that it seems its only purpose is to get their link to show up on your blog. For example, after I post something like “A Few Japanese Swords of Note”, I'll see comments along the lines of "Thank you for nice and informative data. Japanese swords can be full of history and a good investment", with a link going to some commercial site trading in Japanese swords. Spam.

(Years ago, I posted “Creative Street-Sweeper Design” about a street cleaner that four-year-old Anthony had made out of Lego, and got a comment with a link back to a company that makes actual street-cleaning vehicles, but rather than spam, I felt it was cute, so approved it.)

But what if someone offers a comment that simply disagrees with you? What if they're annonymous. Or on the other hand, what if they provide a link to their site? Could half their intent be to get a visit back to their site? But what if the link would actually be a benefit for your readers?

There are no clear answers, but I find the following two situations, when taken together, to be telling...

A month ago, I made my disappointment clear about some shameful marketing by Scott Kelby (in my “The Amazing Marketing Power of Scott Kelby” post, and a followup), but even though I wrote those in response to specific posts on Scott Kelby's site, I never attempted to mention them in comments on his site, because that could be considered self-serving spam, rather than a benefit to him or his readers. I offered a benefit to his readers by simply pointing out his error and asking for clarification. When a few days later I developed a new solution to address some of the issues under discussion, I didn't attempt to even mention it in a comment on his site even though it would have been a benefit to his readers, because I thought it might be considered rude.

So that was then. A week or so ago, I tried to leave a comment on the blog of one of Scott Kelby's business partners, Matt Kloskowski's “Lightroom Killer Tips”. He posted a two-paragraph item “Lightroom Tip - Facebook and Flickr Commenting” in which the first paragraph was an unrelated advertisement for Scott Kelby training DVDs, and the second pointing out a potentially-overlooked aspect of Lightroom's built in Publish feature. The ensuing comments by his readers brought up questions/concerns about how these features worked, but no answers from Matt or other commenters. Well, considering that I've written more Publish plugins than the rest of the world, including Adobe, combined, this is an area I'm familiar with, so I thought to offer a comment to help those readers..

Here's the comment I submitted to Matt's post:

To answer a few questions others have made in the comments....

The support Matt refers to is available in all language/region versions of Lr3.

If the Facebook integration seems to have stopped working, make sure you've upgraded to Lr3.4, and if that alone doesn't help, try the “Remove Authorization” button, then re-authorize your account.

About publishing to Facebook fan pages, Facebook didn't allow third-party apps to do that until recently, so it wasn't possible when Lr3 came out. For what it's worth, my Facebook plugin for Lightroom (which is unrelated to the Adobe one built in, and can run side-by-side with Adobe's if you like) does allow publishing to fan pages and the like.

BTW, the bit about comments being deleted if you republish a Facebook image is a Facebook issue, not a Lightroom issue.

About the “some pics stay in 'republish' forever”, that should have been fixed with Lr3.4.

About Flickr and video, again, for what it's worth, my Flickr plugin can do it. I have a lot of Lightroom plugins, but where they overlap with Adobe's built-in support, my plugins tend to be more complex. This is good if you need more features than Adobe has provided, but more complex means more complex to understand and use, so they may not be for everyone.

The question facing Matt when this comment arrived in his inbox: is this spam or a benefit to your readers?

If you read the post and the other comments, what I've added is clearly on topic, relevant, and helpful, but yet, there are links, so you've got to be more careful. Do these links benefit Matt's readers? Two of them are specific answers that solve specific reader questions, and the third is of generic interest to any Lightroom user, so yeah, overall this is an obvious benefit for Matt's readers, and a comment that one would think Matt would be happy to get.

However, when I looked the next day, the comment had not appeared, even to me with the “your comment is awaiting moderation” note it had right after I submitted it. That's odd.

Perhaps I had made a mistake and didn't actually submit it, so I sent it in again, and waited. After four days, I'd seen many other comments on Matt's site being approved, so I knew that he wasn't on vacation or something, but my comment was still invisible to his readers, appearing only to me (and, of course, to Matt). Could he be withholding this help for his readers out of spite for me? It'd be sad to see an adult be so petty and small, especially at the expense of his readers, so perhaps it had just been overlooked. I added a private followup comment asking whether my comment might be approved....

The next day, my comment was no longer visible even to me, indicating that Matt had simply deleted it.

Sad. And telling.


All 16 comments so far, oldest first...

I wonder whether I’m on his list too, now that I’ve openly disparaged his “solution” to prints that are too dark — brighten them up in Lightroom, perhaps in a virtual copy, before printing. He most recently used this as an example of easy relative adjustments in Quick Develop. He has mentioned this several times, always without mentioning the proper solution (either the printer or monitor is mis-calibrated, that’s what needs to be fixed). I once said so on his blog a long time ago, and just in the last week when the Lightroom team posted a link to his blog recently.

Maybe I should try commenting directly on his blog again and see whether it gets approved?

— comment by Mark Sirota on May 25th, 2011 at 10:05am JST (6 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

Well, it is clear the KKK (Kelby-Kloskowski-Klan) were not happy with the way you exposed them with the “layers conspiracy”, their response also shows they considered the whole thing as a direct attack .. .so why would they allow you to benefit from promoting your plugins on their websites ? That’s pure modern capitalist thinking where the benefit of their audience is only … a side effect ?

I totally agree with you on your interpretation and intentions but everybody nows they do this for money and for many that’s perfectly fine.

From Matt’s blog … “First off, go buy the DVD’s … then here’s the free tip”

Curiously enough, I’m thinking now that the only reason I haven’t given up on lightroom yet are your publish plugins. Everything else I either don’t need or other software do the same or even better.

All this hipe these guys and a few others have created I find extremely negative for digital photography. Lightroom is a great product but not so much better to justify being everybody’s favorite. Promotional sites like Kelby and Matt’s simply shift the market that way weakening the competition and not allowing for other developments.

Products like LightZone for example have true layers built in, allowing for true masks and selections and most important, sacking of adjustment layers and multiple instances of the same tool … but now it’s outdated and apparently no longer developed

On top of that the worse think I find is the extensive use of the presets that now show up on the work of photographers all over the world. There is a clear “Lightroom Effect” on the visual result of the images out there. Lightroom is killing individuality by allowing people to take shortcuts into a new visual standard.

I recommend fellow photographers to download trials of other software and try processing the same raw image in each of them, but starting with a clear mind to see what those tools allow and where do you get. You’ll not only realize of what I’m talking about but also be surprised of all the great options.

According to K & K lightroom can’t have layers built in due to it’s nature, they say the raw image needs to be processed into tiff for a layer adjustment to be possible. I find this extremely difficult to believe. The same technology that allows for virtual copies should allow all the necessary for layers and even multiple instances of the same tool. They only need to find a way to blend them into one final image. Maybe that’s an idea for you Jeffrey, an export plugin that blends virtual copies ? add some masking power and you have it !

Keep the good spirit Jeffrey, it’s always refreshing to read you.

I appreciate some of your comments, but referring to them with “KKK” is in exceedingly poor taste, and reflects on your emotion more than anything about them. As for Lightroom’s nature against layers, it’s not an intrinsic nature of the product, but how it is now. A product like Lightroom can have all kinds of layer functionality, but not until Adobe builds it, or includes the hooks to allow others to build it, but I wouldn’t expect that for at least several years… maybe Lr6. —Jeffrey

— comment by FerLopez on May 25th, 2011 at 10:36am JST (6 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

21:55 EDT Burlington, Ontario.

Jeffrey:

Operating a far encompassing blog such as yours can be fraught with problems.
You are being an honourable gentleman. Certain well-read and published indivduals
are not. quite so above board.

I find their response to your solution and query to be quite understandable;
nothing shall be allowed to disturb their so-called elevated status.

Thus maybe there are times “we/you” should just let “it” go.

Keep in mind, the blog is a hobby, the plug-ins for Lightroom give you some form of
additional cash flow; best keep it that way.

You don’t want some holier than thou newspaper journalist dragging your reputation
through the mud.

BTW is the time approaching for the annual trip back to the homestead in the USA

— comment by Bryce Lee on May 25th, 2011 at 11:00am JST (6 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

We Aperture folks are a nice bunch, Jeffrey! You should switch over! 😉

(Actually, I don’t know if there’s drama surrounding any development around Aperture. I’d imagine that Apple keeps it more locked down than does Adobe for LightRoom, so maybe not…)

— comment by David K on May 25th, 2011 at 11:02am JST (6 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

Woops … I stand corrected and apologize to all for the wrong implications. I thought of it as sarcasm but now that I read it it’s truly offensive to them and I didn’t intend that. I should learn to read my comments twice before I submit. I’m sorry …

— comment by FerLopez on May 25th, 2011 at 11:11am JST (6 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

When I first say the post I thought this might be related to my insulting your Christmas cards. Then I remembered the layers drama, thought to myself “yeah he’s most likely miffed about that”.

On topic, I’ve actually stopped including my website for this very reason. When moderating my own sites I find that I simply appreciate comments more if someone hasn’t included their site.

I appreciate the link if the comment is relevant, because it makes things more human, less anonymous. It provides a way for me to get to know people, and provides for a way for other commenters to make contact outside the sphere of my blog if they want. You’ve left many nice comments on my blog (which I can tell because you’ve left your email privately) and I appreciate it. I’d forgotten about the Christmas card thing (which wasn’t as bad as “dude, your bride is ugly”, but felt close at the time 🙂 ) Glad to see you here again. —Jeffrey

— comment by Daniel on May 25th, 2011 at 11:38am JST (6 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

I think the whole situation stinks. It still irks me that they choose not to understand why some of us would be upset that they are promoting a product that they are directly involved with as a game changer when it’s not even close to that. I have also benefited a lot from the free information that they provide so I’m a little torn.

But I also understand why they might not be too receptive to you posting comments on their sites anymore. A friend of mine was recently very upset to be kicked out of a group that she belonged to after lodging a complaint with the BBB against the organizer of the group. An unrelated matter to be sure, but still not very surprising that he wouldn’t want her in his group anymore. Your situation is very similar in my mind.

By the way, I’ve also had comments on both Scott and Matt’s blogs that have simply disappeared. I’m a little irritated, but I also recognize that I was stirring up the pot, and they certainly have the right to approve or deny any comments they want…

I don’t think the situation is similar at all. The comment can be judged on its surface and in isolation (“is this item helpful to me or my readers?”). And yes, it’s their blog (as this is mine), so of course they can approve or deny at their whim. I’m telling this story to bring one particular action to light so that their integrity and character, or lack thereof, may be reflected upon. —Jeffrey

— comment by Sean Phillips on May 25th, 2011 at 12:50pm JST (6 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

At the end of the day, people need to respect a blog writer’s right to publish or not to publish a persons comment. If a person views a comment as offensive, against the style of the post, spam or just plain weird (I’ve had a few of those – which you wonder if they’re the product of a sentence grammar-bot, or google translate), then a writer should feel able and willing to not publish. Now what counts as going over that line, is a personal (or business) matter.

I’m not a lightroom user, and have no experience with the above mentioned blog… it sounds quite commercial, but then again, you’re also trying to advertise your own stuff. What ever the reason, I think most people would just shrug it off, and say it was their loss.

I agree pretty much completely.

That being said, note that “advertising my own stuff” is about something very useful that I offer for free, and have for years (though I do accept gifts on any of it), and in this case the links explicitly solved problems cited by their readers. I’d say that’s pretty well on the “valuable comment” side of the line.

If you knew the context of the folks involved a bit better, you’d understand that I’m pretty much a tireless advocate for Lightroom’s advancement, and about helping people get more from Lightroom by actually building the tools to do it. One of the items in the post I commented on (Adobe’s Facebook plugin) originated with my source code, for example. When Adobe asked whether they could buy my code, I immediately just gave them a full copy of the source. The point is that while Kelby enterprises may try to come across as advocates of the technology and its users, these recent events seem to make it clear that they are explicitly not advocates if it doesn’t further to line their pockets. They went out of their way to censor useful information that would be of immediate help to some of their readers and general interest to every reader of that blog, and I can’t come up with any plausible reason that does not reflect poorly on their character.

I’m extrapolating from two data points, so perhaps it’s unfair, but they’re pretty solid, telling data points. I guess I just find it disappointing and a bit offensive to see folks held in such high “advocate” regard be so very much the opposite. —Jeffrey

— comment by AdelaideBen on May 25th, 2011 at 2:57pm JST (6 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

Hehehe… that was rights… not rite (although I’m sure there’s plenty of people that seem to be into the performing a mystical rites when writing their blogs, but that’s a different story).

PS – the thing that really bugs me is people that allow comments, but then don’t respond to them. Not a very welcoming feeling… although, having said that, not every comment is asking for a conversation either.

I took the liberty to correct the typo in your prior comment. About “allow comments but don’t respond to them”, I am very guilty of that one. I try, I really do, but have been “advocating” a bit too much over the years, and eventually had a serious physical breakdown that required that I re-evaluate my priorities. Because I’ve been such an advocate, and because I have so many plugins that solve so many problems, the amount of email and comments I get is staggering and overwhelming. Just crushing. I’ll come back from a long weekend to find hundreds. If I were to continue to accept the full burden of these, I’d be solving every random person’s uniquely odd system configuration issues, answering all manner of questions that are at best tangential to my plugins or even Lightroom, debugging temporary problems with any of the myriad of online services my plugins interact with… I just can’t do it fully anymore. So, I do the best I can and try to stay healthy. But that being said, I do feel a responsibility to folks who have found what I have created and become dependent on it for their hobby or work. Especially work… I just am not the kind of person who can feel okay about leaving someone in the lurch. Some people do send kind gifts, but that never factors into my response. I don’t get paid for any of this, but I find great satisfaction in building things that solve problems. —Jeffrey

— comment by AdelaideBen on May 25th, 2011 at 3:02pm JST (6 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

I’ve never been back to killer tips to see if a comment has or hasn’t been approved.

At the end of the day it’s up to the writer. If they want input or not it doesn’t matter to me. But I’ll wager they also get a lot of what could be consider broader line comments like your’s their not sure what to do about.

— comment by Stephen on May 25th, 2011 at 5:53pm JST (6 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

They have a business with a blog on the side; you have a blog with minor business interests on the side. Different objectives and criteria, so you can’t expect others to operate by your ‘rules’, no matter how reasonable they seem to you.

Thanks for the insight into their recent product, and thanks for all your work on Lightroom. When Lightroom came out it was such a breath of fresh air compared to Photoshop, but Adobe do seen to need quite a bit of assistance from independent experts such as yourself in pulling them along the road to useful enhancements.

I have no business interests here. I sell nothing, have no advertisements, and do not accept money for photography. But yes, they do have different objectives and criteria, and this post is my realization that “being helpful to their readers” is apparently not among them. —Jeffrey

— comment by Paul Kelly on May 25th, 2011 at 8:22pm JST (6 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

There are all kinds of people in this world, sorry, just kicking in open doors… The fact that your valid (and valuable) comment was not approved simply shows the character of the moderator. They are more interested in furthering their own interests than promoting a free solution. I wouldn’t worry about that. People will always arrive on your excellent site one moment or another.

You (Jeffrey) have done more than anyone else to make my Lightroom life easier. So why bother with commercially oriented sites and (likewise) oriented comments? If all the negative or non-agreeing comments are filtered out, what’s left is then not worth reading anymore. Even more if comments are valuable and deleted for other reasons.

— comment by Henk on May 25th, 2011 at 10:40pm JST (6 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

I’m always a bit…perplexed…when people come up with the rationalization of “he/she can do whatever he/she wants” for bad behavior.

Of course, they can; that’s a given. When they choose to use their freedom of action to act poorly, though, we are just as free to criticize as we see fit.

Therefore, the fact that the blog moderator was free not to publish Jeffrey’s comment because of vanity/pettiness, or just plain greed, does not mean that we are not free to make our own judgements about the nature of that person.

It’s as though someone thinks that standing in a pink tu-tu and pretending to be a flamingo in their room is a good way to promote world peace. If we were to suggest that no, maybe that is not so effective at promoting world peace, their answer might me “I’M FREE TO DO WHATEVER I WANT!”

“Sure you are. But if you really want to effectively promote world peace, then standing in a pink tutu in your room on one foot might not be the best way to go about…”

“IT’S A FREE COUNTRY! I CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT….”

Etc., etc.

— comment by Zak on May 26th, 2011 at 6:32am JST (6 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

Perhaps its something about plugins… I know I’ve mentioned and linked to your plugins before on their blogs (trying to do the same, helping someone that needed a specific function that isn’t built into LR) but I’m not sure any of them went through.

OnOne, Nik and Photomatix get frequent mentions though. Maybe they just have something against metadata? (Or just those that don’t advertise with Kelby Media… )

I’m starting to get the feeling it’s that very last point…. —Jeffrey

— comment by JasonP on May 26th, 2011 at 7:14am JST (6 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

Unfortunately I’ve contributed to this person by buying two (to err is human, to repeat…) of his books in the past. The front cover of one of them even appeared in Photoshopdisasters (http://www.psdisasters.com/2010/06/digital-photography-book-reflections.html). A comment has been made in his blog about this (http://www.scottkelby.com/blog/2010/archives/10737/comment-page-1#comment-250972) but he never replied.

— comment by Sérgio on May 29th, 2011 at 11:27pm JST (6 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

You know, my comment on http://regex.info/blog/2011-05-07/1764 still “awaits moderation” after almost 4 weeks (there actually are no visible comments at all on that post) … 😉

Holy cow, I thought I pushed those live when I answered the quiz, but apparently not. Thanks for the heads up (!) —Jeffrey

— comment by Andreas Weber on June 4th, 2011 at 3:11am JST (6 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink
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