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.

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