Approving or Ignoring Comments on Old Student Blog Entries

Approving or Ignoring Comments on Old Student Blog Entries (Jerz’s Literacy Weblog)

It’s that time of year — students elsewhere in the world are going to Google, and finding old blog entries that my former students posted as homework. Sometimes the visitor will leave a comment that says “Great site! You really helped me save my grade!” But other times…

A few days ago, on a blog entry a student wrote about a few of Shakespeare’s sonnets, a visitor left this comment: “pls send me figure of speech in sonnet 116 coz i have to give presentation.pls send me by mail urgently” (I didn’t approve that comment.)

Yesterday, on a student’s humorous blog entry about CompUSA tech support, a visitor wrote “i say that your collumn was not very helpful you ass.” (I didn’t approve that one either.)

On a blog named “The Land of Wild Horses,” a student last year wrote a blog entry called “Habitat,” describing her experience with Habitat for Humanity. About 4 hours ago, a commenter submitted the following comment: “why dont youll have a answer to a horses habitat?” (I didn’t approve that comment.)

On a blog in which a student reflected on nature poems, just 22 minutes ago, a visitor posted the following comment: “i think that people realy need to make it easiere to find poems for a project and i have looked for fourty-five min. just to find one and there is no sign…… poetry stinks” (I didn’t approve that one either.)

In my role as site administrator for blogs.setonhill.edu, I see all the comments that are left on the 300 or so blogs that are part of the site. Most of these blogs were created for students who were in my classes, and most of the students don’t update their blogs when the class is over, but since we are a small school, English majors who blog for me in one class will often blog for me again.

If I didn’t have anti-spam software installed, our installation would get literally thousands of spam comments for every legitimate comment. I’ve currently got the site set to hold all comments for approval, although if the site recognizes a particular blog entry as current and a particular commenter as someone whose comments have been approved in the past, it’s possible that the system will fast-track some comments.

In order to speed the class discussions along, I routinely approve comments that a student makes on a blog entry that another student has written for class. Once the class is over, sometimes a student’s blogging homework continues to attract attention. I don’t routinely approve those comments, since I don’t expect the student to be online participating in the discussion.

If a random visitor simply wants to add his or her opinion, or just wants to post a “thank you,” I will often approve the comment. But if the comment is rude, too aggressive, or asks the blogger to do the poster’s homework, I won’t bother.

Last year, when the system was not very automated and I had to read and pass judgment on each comment individually, sometimes I would bulk approve all comments that I knew were posted during a classroom blogging session, but there might be 200 junk spams that I had to weed through to find the one good comment that a visitor posted in the wee hours of the morning. That meant that sometimes comment B would be approved after one hour, but comment A (that was written earlier) wouldn’t be approved until the next day.

Ideally, of course, every comment would be approved automatically, but since it is not at all unusual for our site to attract dozens of spam comments per second, we have to make some decisions about what gets approved en masse and what gets ignored.

I recall a situation with a particular student who felt that I was deliberately slow about approving some comments in order to influence the discussions. If I had the time to pay that much attention to every blog discussion, I certainly wouldn’t waste it by playing censor!