Comments provide good reading, but they also require tough decisions

By David H. Kirkwood

One of the joys, headaches, and responsibilities that come with being a blog editor is dealing with the comments that are constantly flowing in—literally–24-7. And what a motley assortment of communications they are, especially if you consider the spam.

 

THE SPAMDEMIC

In fact, the great majority of the comments (to use the term loosely) that we receive are spam. I believe that’s generally true of blogs.

Our anti-spam efforts do a pretty good job of intercepting most of these before they ever become visible to our readers. However, maybe 20% or so manage to outwit our best efforts and sneak into the public arena–sometimes before my colleagues and I have had a chance to delete them from our particular blogs.

That’s why, from time to time, you may notice among the legitimate comments written in response to a post (or to an earlier comment) something like “Your house is valueble for me. Thanks!…” The sender of that illiterate bit of spam was longchamps bagsHong Kong and it came in, ostensibly, as a response to a recent Hearing View on rechargeable batteries.

At least half the spam messages contain words of praise for the blog, perhaps in hopes that editors will post them even though their content is totally irrelevant to the subject of the blog. Here’s a typical one sent to Hearing News Watch by sklad opalu, wegiellpoznann.pl:

“It’s tremendous weblog, I need to be like you.” Maybe it made more sense in the original Polish.

Anyway, spam is an annoying fact of life, like mosquitos and dust bunnies—only more numerous. According to WikiPedia, about 7 trillion spam messages were sent last year, so apparently people are making money on it. That’s too bad, but we won’t let them spoil our day.

 

LEGITIMATE COMMENTS: KEEP ‘EM COMING!

I’m delighted to say that all of the Blogs @ Hearing Health & Technology Matters! are also getting legitimate comments. While each editor here sets his or her own policies regarding how to handle the comments their blog receives, I can say that we all encourage readers to send them. This kind of input enlivens the discussion and adds more information, insights, and viewpoints to the mix.

So when you are reading a post on any of the Blogs @ HHTM, please look at the end of and see if there are any comments there. Better still, write your own comment—whether it’s the first or the fifth.

When I’m not working on Hearing Views or Hearing News Watch, I enjoy reading the responses that my fellow editors are getting. Holly Hosford-Dunn’s recent post “How Big Is Huge?” on Hearing Economics has drawn some thought-provoking feedback. Wayne Staab’s History of Audiology series at Wayne’s World inspired responses from a number of those who helped make that history. One of these was Bob Briskey, who just weeks before his death (reported here last week) sent a gracious comment expressing his appreciation to Wayne.

There has been lively and informative discussion of hearing loops on the Hearing Health blog and some thoughtful comments on counseling at Jane Madell’s Hearing and Kids. And folks with hearing loss have sent scores of enthusiastic messages about Gael Hannan’s Better Hearing Consumer blog.

SOME HARD CHOICES

Except for the spam, I publish the majority of comments that come into my two blogs—Hearing News Watch and Hearing Views. I’m glad to say that I virtually never get comments that are clearly unusable because, for example, they are obscene, potentially libelous, demonstrably untrue, or patently offensive.

From time to time I do get comments that, while germane to hearing, fall into a gray area for one reason or another. For example, they may be so one-sided as to be arguably false. Or they can be harshly critical of individuals or organizations, so much so that people may be offended and their feelings hurt. Very often I disagree with what they say and almost always their tone is not one I’d use.

Nevertheless, my policy toward such comments is to err on the side of publishing them–possibly with a little editing—rather than rejecting them. As an editor, I believe very strongly in the value of an open forum—one where all interested parties are invited to speak out. And I take that approach even though I realize that doing so is likely to upset some people—often people whom I know and like. I trust that these people and everyone else who reads the comments at The Blogs@HHTM understand that they express the ideas and opinions of the people who send them—and not of the editors.

CONTENTIOUS SUBJECTS

Recently, a couple of topics that Hearing News Watch has been covering have inspired some pretty heated response. Issues related to the online sale of products and services directly to consumers have proven especially controversial. For example, posts about hi HealthInnovations and another one on a letter sent by the Hearing Industries Association (HIA) to the Food and Drug Administration provoked some strong comments.

One comment about HIA’s action was pretty harsh. I decided to run it anyway, though only after a little censoring. Somehow the phrase “This industry sucks” didn’t seem like a good way of promoting thoughtful discussion on a serious matter.

Happily, even on divisive topics, some of the comments we receive are expressed in a constructive and effective manner. I especially liked one from Peggy Ellertsen in response to a story on the controversy over hi HealthInnovations. She observed that the key question underlying the arguments about online, direct-to-consumer hearing care is “How can the community of professionals concerned with accessible treatment of hearing loss create alternative, affordable paradigms for hard-of-hearing persons for whom the high cost of hearing aids creates an additional, sometimes impossible burden?”

I hope you’ll read her entire comment—as well as others on the Blogs@HHMT.