Seven Suggestions for Becoming a Constructive Commenter

While this isn’t the first time I have run into this issue, my recent posts about Twitter Etiquette has helped me realize the importance of constructive commenting.

Comments like “First!”, “Bite me”, “You suck”, as well as other mindless garbage should not be posted in a blog or social news websites comments. These comments have nothing to do with the posting and are not only rude, but do nothing to further the conversation. If you are going to waste your time on the internet do something other than waste peoples space and bandwidth.

I’m not saying you have to agree with everything somebody posts, but if you have an opposing view, state it and the thought process behind it. Saying something like “You are wrong” does nothing to further the conversation. Offer constructive criticism! The internet is about the free sharing of ideas, not the flaming of other people simply because you do not understand or believe in what they say. Here are a few tips for leaving constructive comments.

  1. Ask the author to clarify what he says. If you are unsure of what the post author is trying to say or can’t see how they made the leap from observation to conclusion, ask them to explain it better. Just because you don’t understand somebody’s point, does not mean its not a valid point. Feel free to ask as many questions as is needed so that you can understand the issue and be able to provide some constructive thought about the topic.
  2. If you are an expert on the topic, speak up! If you happen to be an expert on a particular topic and believe that the author or other commenter’s don’t understand what they are talking about or have some details wrong, jump in and share your knowledge. Don’t simply say “These people are idiots” and continue on your way. Help inform them so they can speak intelligently about the topic in the future. Doing this will not only impress the readers with your knowledge, but it will spur a more informed conversation.
  3. Post links to related content. If you know a great source of more information on the topic, feel free to post the link. Anybody concerned with the post will be very happy to learn more about the topic. Often blogs aren’t long enough to go in great detail of a topic, so posting links that will give other readers more detail is often greatly appreciated as it saves people the time they would use to search for more information on the topic.
  4. Post polite comments. The old adage of if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it at all, can easily apply to blog or social news posts. While I am not saying you should not speak negatively about the post if it warrants it, it is not necessary to flame the user with obscenities and directions to where he can go. Keep in mind that when you say something on the internet, it won’t go away and can easily come back to haunt you in the future. What you say and how you say it affects your reliability and reputation. While a post like “Nice job” isn’t the most constructive post, it is at least more respectable than “You suck”.
  5. Offer alternative ideas. Many topics are not black and white and won’t have a single answer of solution. If you or somebody you know has an alternative idea, share it! Progress is achieved through the concept of idea sharing, not keeping your opinion to yourself. Sometimes an alternate idea is better than the original idea, so share your thoughts on the subject.
  6. Suggest improvements. If somebody is posting about some kind of project they have in the works, suggest improvements for any areas you see that could be improved upon. Similar to the alternative ideas point, if you have an idea that could be more efficient than they way they are currently doing something, suggest it! If they don’t want to listen to you, that is their choice, but at least suggest improvements. Often you will be thanked for your input.
  7. Be original!  While you may agree with other commenter’s viewpoints, don’t just repeat what they have said.  Thinking for yourself and having your own, unique opinion is embraced on the internet.  Expand on what others have said or state why you don’t subscribe to their entire thought.  It is not necessary to be correct, just original.

Following these guidelines will help you become a valued commenter on any blog or social news outlet.  Remember, on the internet knowledge is valued and trolls are despised.  Most importantly, respect the opinions of others if you want others to respect yours.