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Portrait of man sitting inside a cardboard box

I love reading other people’s blogs and websites. Not too long ago, I read this really interesting blog entry on the Dalai Lama.  I thought it was clever, funny and very well written.  I wanted to leave a comment on the blog that said that.  But unfortunately, you had to be a registered member of the site in order to comment. And that was the only way to leave a comment. My response? I hit the back button.

Sad to say, on many websites, in order to comment, I find I have to create an account and login. Or, I can only comment with a Google account.  Which I don’t have. Or a Facebook account. Which I also don’t have. So, since I don’t want to create an account and won’t use Google or Facebook (which seem to be the most popular accounts for website sign in), I am hitting the back button. 

 For me, it doesn’t matter if registration is free, easy, or even offers me a prize. Unless I am passionately interested in that site and plan to be spending a lot of time there, I am not interesting in joining just to leave a comment.

Why? The short answer is I just don’t have time to create a new, unique username/password combo for every website I visit. (Read that as not using my dog’s name everywhere on the internet so that I’m not too likely to have my account hacked.) My last feedreader exploding due to thousands of unread posts may have something to do with it as well.

Want a few examples? From Social Media Today:  

Please note that comments from non-members will be sent to a moderator for approval within 24 hours. You can also register as a member for this site to have your comments approved automatically.

Or perhaps from boingboing.net:

Warning: Anonymous messages are held for moderation. This could take a (long) while. Or your comment may not be posted at all. Please consider creating an account and logging in. It’s fast, free, and we don’t spam, ever.

Get the impression that sites really want you to become a registered user? I sure do. And I understand why. But it still does not make me want to sign up for an account.

Homeless man warming his hands by a fire

Some sites take it to extremes. An author I was interested in reading was having a contest for a signed advance copy of an upcoming new novel.  To enter the contest, you had to visit a popular genre blog and post a comment.  Whe I tried to post, I found that you could only post if you signed in with Google Friend Connect.  When I nicely questioned the blog’s owner if there were other ways to comment, I was told that there were not.  Furthermore, I was told that the reason for the Friend Connect only comments rule was “to improve the quality of the discussion” and thanks for stopping by.

Gee. I realized I had just been called Internet riff-raff.  And not even based on my clothes or my hair or my car or any of those other status symbols people usually judge each other by.  It was based on the fact that I didn’t use a particular social networking system.

And from a marketing perspective, that blogger just lost my readership and my business (if he’s selling something).  He just lost the  potential to  get my business.  And he probably lost the business of a lot of people that I am going to tell about it. And the author who used that site for a contest that should have been open to everyone doesn’t fare too well in my opinion either. Because I won’t be back to visit that blog again.  Ever.  Just like I wouldn’t go back to a brick and mortar business that treated me badly.

And if you are a business blogger, that is not good.  Because for a business, building blog readership is crucial to building your business. And turning people off is not building relationships.  And, honestly,  most people love comments as it gives the impression that this is a site people are really interested in. 

So how do you make your blog as open as possible for readers and commenters?  Without driving yourself insane trying to fight off the comments from the dark side, of course.

The range of options seems almost as wide as the types of websites and blogs out there.  Unmoderated with spam filters.  Captchas of all varieties.  Moderated.  First post moderated and then posting is allowed. Sign in with Open ID. Google or Facebook or WordPress.com.  They are all options, although I personally have issues with most of that list.  What about a comment policy for your blog to help cut down the work? Ask people to play by the rules?  And why can’t I sign in with Twitter? 

The other extreme is a site like Topix.com. According to this article, they get tons of comments by allowing anonymous ones, although deleting them also seems to be a full time job.  There has to be somewhere in between.

While anonymous comments seems to be an invitation for trouble, many people like signing in with name and URL, even if it is moderated.  It helps to promote your own blog by inviting return comments.  I myself have discovered many a new blog or website by checking the links from an especially witty or well-thought-out comment. I have observed that the more open the comment process, the more interesting and intelligent the discussion seems to be.

So, do you do anything to make the comment process more open on your blog or website?  Or is there a reason why you keep the process limited in some way?  I’d love to know.   And, contrary to this blog post’s title, you don’t have to be a registered user to comment. You just have to wait for me to get around to approving the comment.