Dealing with trolls
We asked some South African bloggers how they deal with those tricky readers.
They're those delightful, anonymous 'voices' that litter the online space with their opinions. We've seen prominent bloggers deal with their fair share, but it's definitely not easy. We asked some South African bloggers how they deal with those tricky readers.
Dealing with the negative
From chatting with bloggers, troll experiences are largely dependent on the type of blog you have. While most of the bloggers we spoke to had had few negative experiences, it would seem that there is always someone lurking around with an axe to grind. For Emily Pettit-Coetzee of www.iheartyouroutfit.com, it was the fact that readers thought that she ate sushi when she was pregnant; for Kate Chauncey of www.pessimiss.wordpress.com it was a freebie hunter trying to bad-mouth a brand for which she was blogging and for Emma-Jane Harbour of www.emmajanenation.com it was snide comments from the fashion police. However trivial they may seem, they can be draining and can even get personal. Dax Villanueva of www.relax-with-dax.co.za said that he had a reader who launched a personal attack on him. "I left the first one and the second even. But then it became ridiculous and I blocked their IP address." Christopher Mills of www.imod.co.za could relate saying he’s had several online incidents with difficult readers. "I can remember a specific one where someone used a post I wrote as a tool to leave comments slating another person. Upon removing the comments, the author of the comments then blogged about me removing the comments and not having a free and fair blog. It was a big deal and ended up with a phone call to sort it out."
So what's the best way to deal with it?
All five bloggers are quite pragmatic with their advice and suggest looking at the comment and deciding whether it offers any constructive criticism. "Once your irritation has died down mull it over. Do they have a point? Are they actually being constructive or is it merely petty meanness? Unless the comment is distinctly aimed at harming you or someone you love then consider publishing it with a well worded response – which you only write once you've cooled off," suggests Emily. Diana Moss of www.missmoss.co.za mentioned that in her experience negative comments can be a platform to open up dialogue with readers. Her advice is to respond but be wary of how you do it."Don't let it get to you. I've seen bloggers respond aggressively to negative comments, and that always makes me shake my head. It's no use fighting fire with fire - especially not on the Internet.” Kate also mention that discussing the criticism can be constructive, "I once had someone making negative comments about an article I wrote online - I chose to defend myself and it was well received. I really don't like to make distinctions between on- and offline behavior. Hiding behind an avatar is not an excuse for rudeness or bitchiness!"
All agree that the only exception to dealing with criticisms head on, is if they veer towards being offensive. "Ensure that comment moderation is turned on firstly. From there I would recommend carefully thinking about what should be published and what shouldn't. By rule of thumb, if the comment leans towards racism, slander and the likes, I would advise a person not to publish it as managing it once it's live could be a big problem. Another thing a blog author could do is send the person who left the comment an email informing them that the comment isn't being published with a reason attached," Christopher suggested. Having experienced personal attacks online, Dax also suggested being wary of the comments you make live, "Be careful not to use sensationalism to attract traffic at the cost of someone else’s reputation."
So is deleting an option?
Emma-Jane sees no problem with deleting negative comments. Her advice is simple, "You have to ignore them. Everybody is entitled to an opinion, but some people are plain rude about it, don't stoop to their level." However, Christopher thinks this might not be the best idea, "People who leave comments can be weird and I've seen a lot of people pointing fingers at blogs and websites which just delete (or don't publish) comments; it's important to at least let the audience and/or comment author know what's going on."
Kate, Diana and Emily think it depends on the comment and the context. "You need to be able to draw the line between constructive or negative criticism, and someone who is just being hateful. If the comment is unjustified or simply an outright attack on you, your blog or your readers then you should feel free to delete it - but don't censor people just for having an opinion, even if it is a negative one," Diana explained. "If it's constructive then it shows that you are secure and rounded enough to handle criticism. Besides, it's your blog, your space, you decide what gets published," Emily added.
Dax agreed that your blog is your online platform and you can decide what gets published. While he sees the merits of discussing negative comments with commenters, he added that they need to also be transparent, "I would be more inclined to publish negative comments if the person used their real name and email. Commenters that hide behind anonymity don't deserve a voice."