During the course of this week, an incident occured that has taught me a great deal about a number of things, among which are the responsibilities that we have as bloggers. When we open these sites and pour our wisdom into them, add pretty pictures, think up a funky title for the post and press 'Publish', they are not an isoloted set of events that touch no-one. Quite the opposite is the case, more especially when the blogger is fortunate enough to attract readers, and readers who choose to comment about the material that has been written by the blogger.
The behaviour is normally this:
1. Site construction - every blogger has a choice about what and how their blog is made manifest to you the lovely readers. The buttons, gizmos, pictures and all other functionality all rests in the hands of the author. They too come with choices and questions, along the what, why, who and how spectrum. You will discover much about the blogger by how they create their site ... it's fascinating! I urge all readers to read the site as well as the posts - and ask the question 'why did they put that there?' One such function is only apparent at a point when a reader makes a comment - and it is almost an unseen and unnoticed thing: and it is whether the blogger retains the right to moderate their incoming comments.
2. We bloggers think up something and we write it, normally formulating it as we press the keys themselves. Blogs are organic enterprises and very often, the post is not fully 'written' before it is actually consigned to the screen. However, this seemily haphazard art is not value-free, an accident without mitigation.
- Why has the post been written?
- What is being said - does it say what it means, or mean what it says?
- Who is the post written to (we normally have a nominal audience per post, somewhere in our heads)?
- What effect are we trying to cause/precipitate?
- What do we hope to recieve by way of comment?
- Who do we hope will comment?
- What is the commenter's relationship to the blogger?
- Is that relationship mutual and reciprocal, or even atypical (some bloggers seem to write purely for the soothing balm of the comments which in those cases are normally and habitually thankful and grateful for the blogger, if not the post)?
- Is the post likely to hurt or offend?
- Is the post so valent that it is bound to hurt or offend, or divide?
... and the list goes on.
3. A comment is made. As I have just stated, a blogger (if they are experienced enough to know that they have the choice) will have set the site up in a way that will either allow comments to pass straight to the public-eye on their site, or to retain them and publish them later after moderation. It is on this aspect of blogging that I think some different sort of damage can be done over and above the potential always bound-up with posting in the first place. That moderation brings with it some more questions:
- Who is commenting? [a friend in real life, a blog follower whose only relationship is only through the blog itself? A colleague? A family member?]
- How are they commenting? [this will wholly revolve around the nature of the their relationship with the blogger - e.g. my mother's comments are to her son and are written in that way, and it would be odd if a colleague comment in a similar style]
- What are they saying? [I don't think I know of any blogger who chooses to censor their commenters, but there are times when the content of comments are not worthy of publication]
- How is one commenter regarded by another? [ e.g. does the blog-only follower know that the other commentator is a friend in the real-world? I have seen it happen where some words that are acceptable between two friends were misconstrued by another commenter, which caused a reaction]
I am a blogger who feels that I must take responsibility for all material that exists on my Site. It is my site and upon it I am to be judged. I have never yet censored a comment but if a one was written that was aimed at hurting someone or offending them, then I likely would. That is my responsbility, to protect my commenters as well as myself if the need arose!
4. Safety in Blogs - the blogger will ensure their own safety when they post because that is normal. We have the last word as well as the first, as well as the 'Delete' button. However, safety in blogs should also be extended to our commenters, those wonderful people who often mitigate the post in the first place. That safety is, in my opinion, managed by the blogger through moderation of comment, and noble platitudes about allowing questionable or hurtful materal on to the site in the interests of editorial openness is naive! People do get hurt on blogs like that - deeply hurt. Safety on a blog is also brought in question when the relationship between blogger and commenter is atypical. 'Mutual Appreciation Societies' will invariable not welcome a challenge to the blogger. Such blogs exist and are to be avoided like the Black Death!
This is a serious post for all those who take to this wonderful passtime. It is meant to be serious because in blogs people can get hurt if you don't set out your stall openly. This is also a word of advice to commenters, upon whom most blogs depend! It is a mine-field and we have all been blown away from time to time. In amongst the mines, it is a joy and one to be commended in the highest terms.