How Should My Comments Be Moderated, and What Should Be Expected of Commenters.. And Me?

I like to mix it up in the comments sometimes, especially when I think a comment is unfair or dishonest, or focuses too much on motives rather than on the strength of an argument.

After all, it’s the internet. And many of us have seen that cartoon of the man hunched over a computer in his living room while his wife beckons him into the bedroom… “Just a minute, dear, someone is wrong on the internet!”

But back in May I pledged to try to do better. I haven’t always lived up to my pledge, but I’m still inspired by a post a friend left on Facebook six months ago:

How to compose a successful critical commentary:

(1) You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.”
(2) You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
(3) You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
(4) Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

I know I want to do better. Do you?

Yesterday I asked you to do me a favor and spend about 5 seconds casting a quick vote for me in Christoper Elliott‘s ‘best blog’ poll.

As of now I appear to be winning.

(Please consider voting and heloing me keep it that way!)

Those results are even after votes were removed from my total because a commenter said he had voted for me multiple times. Let’s not give any reason to have me disqualified, please don’t do that.. 🙂

Here’s the thing. Elliott and I have our disagreements about a lot of things. Reminded by the Facebook post above, I’ve tried hard lately to keep those disagreements completely substantive. I think that rudeness and snark gets in the way of understanding.

And I’d love it if y’all treated the comments the same way. I don’t delete comments unless they’re extremely graphic or reveal non-public information about others, and I’ve only ever banned two people from commenting here. I don’t intend to change that. But I also didn’t love some of the comments on the post about United’s new elite status spending requirements yesterday.

It’s your forum to share what you think, but it comes across much better when we elevate the discourse. For instance, when I’m asking you to vote in Elliott’s poll it’s fine to say it would be great if my blog won (or didn’t win) because of the differences we have. But I’m not sure it’s the right place to trash him.

At the same time I am reticent to edit or delete comments, or ban commenters, except in the most extreme cases. That’s because it’s an easy move from banning abusive and rude comments to considering strong disagreement with me to be abusive. I think it’s important to have a space to vigorously disagree with me, to offer contrary ideas, and to hash those out. And I don’t have sufficient confidence in my Solomonic abilities to always draw a clear distinction.

Maybe I’m wrong about all this, but it’s my tentative thinking, to try to do better myself and to ask the same for the comments. This remains a request of course, not any sort of change to how things are administered, let’s see how we do.

That’s my feeling, although I’d love to know what you think: What do you think the right way to handle comments is? Should they be moderated or not?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Maybe you need to stop writing articles trying to educate your users or help when it is yet another attempt to put links to 50+ cards that give a bonus

    Additionally it is highly annoying when you keep telling all of us about how you got quoted here or there. No one cares

  2. This entire thread has degenerated into an attack on a blogger who is not considered popular here. IMHO it’s a good example of why some articles shouldn’t have a comment section attacked. I would like to feel free to gather the best ideas from a wide range of viewpoints. I do not like to be made to feel that I have to pick sides.

  3. Not a fan of Chris Elliot. But I do tnink Gary always sets up a debate to make himself look intelligent and Chris an idiot. If anything Gary needs to stop whoring his credit card links and stop telling us about how he got quoted here or interviewed there. I bet he is trying to make up for some deficiency. Wonder if he refers to himself in 3rd person when he talks about himslef

  4. I gotta admit – I come to this site often but Gary’s seems to have a real hard-on for proving how much more intelligent/informed/whatever he is compared to Elliott.

    @Christopher: I don’t understand all the hate either. If ppl genuinely have a low opinion of you, they don’t have to read your stuff. I say go back to ignoring Gary;

  5. I’d like to thank everyone for taking the time to comment today.

    As I’ve already said, this wasn’t about me — it was about you, and the way you behave in the comments and the one who is giving the order to behave this way.

    With one or two notable exceptions, you have met my expectations in every way. It’s highly disappointing.

    I’ve made my last comment here. Feel free to continue talking amongst yourselves and taking shots at me. Gary won’t try to stop you.

  6. This discussion is exactly why I don’t have a comment section on my website. People who communicate with me directly by email almost always are polite, and are almost always helpful. The only responses I get occasionally that irritate me are those begging for my miles. I have received only three abusive emails over all the years I have been doing my project.

  7. Frankly, I couldn’t care less what you choose to use as your comment policy, because ultimately: it’s your choice!

    While I will concede that every person is entitled to their own opinion (as shown by the polling stats), ultimately they are just random peoples opinions. For someone to take things so personally and respond to every critique as if they are the ultimate arbiter of topics relating to consumer advocacy just seems petty, narcissistic and un-worthy of my time.

    While I do not religiously read either of your blogs (not to be mean, but I don’t think either are very good), I do read articles that appear on BA that catch my attention.

    TLDR: You got your customers by being impartial, honest and knowledgeable on areas regarding travel. Do whatever you want with your comments, just please refrain from ad-hominem attacks and dragging actual news through the mud with loaded statements.

    P.S. If someone must respond to every piece of criticism directed toward them, do it in a constructive manner (ie. on your blog) instead of being petty and trying to gain exposure.

  8. I think the tone of Gary’s contributions and the tone of Chris’s contributions on this thread speak for themselves. I am, on a moderate income, taking about four trips a year to all corners of the earth. It is the helpful bloggers, Gary among them, that have provided me with the education to make it possible, and I am grateful to them for that.

  9. CE:

    You’re making dangerous assumptions about what I think. I was hoping you’d put forth a positive view of “well, OK, this is why not having as much in the way of upgrades and free flights (under the current FF system) would work better for a lot of people, even if it’s not the same gravy train for you FTers”. (“This” being whatever you think is better- I guess some Southwest style all coach world? Maybe “You get what you pay for”? I’m not really all that clear on that from what you’ve written.)

    That seems a pretty progressive way to engage with people who see the world differently than you do- explain how YOU see the world without necessarily condemning someone for acting in perceived self-interest.

    Pity you’ve run off and won’t continue the discussion.

    Will you convince everyone with a vested interest? Of course not. Might you get someone to think differently? Perhaps. Might you have an actual discussion and debate with people with differing views, maybe even learn something? Hopefully.

    Incidentally, I’ve given up more upgrades into a first class seat than I can count, just because a flight time that just has a coach seat is more convenient, so I switch to it. I fly on Southwest all the time (no first class there). Some of us on FT, who you seem to think are “the enemy” mercilessly trolling you… really aren’t.

  10. I like having a comment section. Once in awhile, I have information that I think will help a fellow reader. Once in awhile, I have a follow up question on a blog topic. If I have a question, I know that Gary will respond helpfully.

  11. Just wow. My comment above got blown out of all proportion. But the real winner was “Mary” and Elliott’s response. Wow. Mr. Elliott, you are simply smacking your psyche around by having a blog. I’m sorry, but at least 3/4 of the comments you dismiss above are reasonable and well intentioned. Eponymous Coward did his best to engage you, as did Mary and others, but to no avail. Gary, keep up the good work. Keep the blog and comments as they are. And take Elliott’s ideas apart every time he says something less than…. well, no matter what word I use, I’m going to be a mean spirited bully, so best to say nothing, huh? LOL

  12. This is honestly my first impression of Mr. Elliott. He himself has damaged his brand. If he had used the suggested comment tips in Gary’s post today, he may have produced a more productive result.

    I managed the social media function for a top 5 bank. It is widely considered disingenuous to moderate out comments unless they are of the nature Gary has outlined. He has followed best practices, and furthermore, used this post to try and influence the community.

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