Dur­ing Twitter’s #blogchat today, Mack Col­lier dropped the fol­low­ing idea in:

There’s a good post for some­one, a post on what IS a good com­ment & where the ‘spam’ line is & how to cross it in com­ments #blogchat

Given I’m the sort that keeps this sort of idea float­ing around in my head for just such an occa­sion, I offered to take up the task. I com­ment on blogs all over the Web, and I try to fol­low these sim­ple rules.

Of course, this is just one person’s view. And, I’m quite delib­er­ately keep­ing it to a short list. Everyone’s going to have a dif­fer­ent view, and the list could as eas­ily be 100 rules as four.

Rule #1 — Add some­thing to the con­ver­sa­tion — as much as we can be inclined to say words to the effect of “I agree” or “I dis­agree”, what does that add to the con­ver­sa­tion? Answer is, pretty much noth­ing. Try to add your own view, or thoughts or an addi­tional facet to the topic.

Rule #2 — Be iden­ti­fi­able — it’s occa­sion­ally okay to be an Anony­mous Cow­ard, but 9 times out of 10 it’s much bet­ter to be iden­ti­fi­able. Why? Because the value accorded to your com­ment and to you in the form of social cap­i­tal, or whuffie, from the other par­tic­i­pants is mea­sur­ably higher if you aren’t shel­ter­ing behind anonymity. So, make sure you put in a real email address and a URL that can be used to fol­low the White Rab­bit that is you in that com­ment form. It’s karma, baby!

Rule #3 — Don’t link shill — we’re often tempted to put links to our own mate­r­ial around a sub­ject. Hell, I do it all the time. But before you do, think for a moment. Ask your­self, “is this link really rel­e­vant to this con­ver­sa­tion?” If the answer is no, or you’re not sure, don’t do it. Stick with the link you pro­vided for Rule #2.

Rule #4 — Avoid rel­e­vance fal­lacy and play­ing the man — the down­fall of many an unskilled high school debater (and every­one who never pro­gressed beyond that point), rel­e­vance fal­lacy will bring you undone faster than… well, pretty damned fast. The other thing is play­ing the man — the favorite tac­tic of the troll. If you don’t agree with someone’s posi­tion, that’s cool, but use logic and well-​​reasoned argu­ment to state your case rather than attack­ing the indi­vid­ual. Oth­er­wise we’ll inevitably end up with invo­ca­tion of Godwin’s Law. Argue nice and we’ll respect you for it in the morn­ing, even if we still don’t agree.

If you sick to these rules, I think you’ll find your com­ments will improve, your writ­ing will improve and your abil­ity to debate well might even get a boost too.