Mind Candy

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How to respond to harsh or damaging blog comments

Posted by mandyf on July 10, 2012

You have been flamed! It happens. These days it seems no one is immune to being criticized, sometimes harshly, sometimes wrongly and without warrant. While it is aggravating to be flamed personally, what do you do when it attacks you professionally? Damaging blog posts and comments left behind on them are out of control these days. Given the relatively anonymous nature most blogs offer to writers and those who comment, people feel all too free to say anything they want whether it is true or not. It is simply one of the downsides of blogging everyone will most likely have to deal with if they pursue the trade long enough. What most people do not really know how to do however is respond to such posts and blogs which damage their reputation or credibility.

The first reaction is usually outrage and the desire to respond in an equal manner. Right away this is the wrong thing to do. Step away from the keyboard and give yourself a few minutes to calm down. When people make damaging blog posts (As they will be referred to in this article) what they are generally trying to do is get you to engage and give in to your initial reaction. That allows them to point to your reaction yet again as further proof they are in fact correct. Remember that even if you alter your statement later, it is still cached out there on the web somewhere and anyone intent on finding it to use against you most certainly will. In order to handle the situation in the manner most advantageous to you, adhere to the following steps as closely as possible.

The first thing you have to do is identify who the blogger is. This is not always an easy thing. People that use blogs for personal/professional attacks generally hide their true identity. Sometimes they miss certain things however which give them away. There are three types of people involved in a damaging blog post usually; the poster, the commenters, and the spreaders. The spreaders are the people that spread the blog across the web. Although the poster and commenters are usually spreaders, sometimes there are people that remain behind the scenes that spread the post.

How do you identify them? The person that posted the blog, even if anonymously, will usually give some solid signals as to who they are. Read the post thoroughly and narrow the field down to who would have knowledge of what is discussed. The second step is to click links. Check the profile pages of the poster and commenters. Usually you can identify at least one person of the batch based on their posts and narrow down who the players are. The third step is to check google. Paste some of the post into the search bar and see where else it is showing up. Also check Twitter Search for more clues as commenters will often carry on real time discussions. This helps you get an idea of who the spreaders are. You do this, because it allows you to respond on a more equal footing. It is easier to combat the enemy you know than the one you do not.

Respond to the post in a multi-pronged manner. When you comment do so in a logical rational manner. Do not try to fight fire with fire. Take the high road and explain why the post is inaccurate. This won’t carry much weight with the vultures circling overhead at that particular location, but it does send a message that you are aware of what has been said, and that is sometimes enough to get some bloggers to back down, or even print a retraction. That is far from the norm, but it does occasionally happen and is always a good first response. Furthermore it sometimes takes some wind out of the sails of commenters and spreaders. The problem is, sometimes the poster will not leave the comment up or may have a setting requiring approval to go live. In those cases you have gained little ground. To help combat this however, if your post does go live immediately, take a screen shot of the post which clearly shows it on their blog. This can be useful in step two.

Step two is to respond in your own blog or on your own website. The key to doing this must be followed correctly. Present the contents of the post in your own words. Do not directly quote the post nor should you provide its location on the web. Simply state what has been said “On the web in regards to….” and then refute it. This keeps you from sending the poster any free traffic. Should your comment not be published at the source post (damaging blog), then take it upon yourself to post one more time in a new post on your blog that you have attempted to engage this person in discussion to resolve the issue but they have refused. Post your screen-shot of the comment you attempted to post as proof of this.

Why this step is necessary is that it gives you control and ensures that your viewpoint on the damaging blog is made public. It shows you have made reasonable attempts to resolve the situation but have not been met halfway. In effect you become the good guy. The second benefit of posting a response on your own blog is that in some cases it moves the disussion to your blog where again, you now have control of the situation. You can see very plainly exactly who is commenting to your post on the topic.

The final step is to stay on top of the situation. Do not allow it to escalate out of control. Make sure whatever is posted on your blog is known to you, and continue to respond in a civil manner. If people get out of control do feel free to delete their posts and block the user. In some cases if it is extremely abusive it is not a bad idea to report the user.

While this advice is all well and good and is aimed more so at blog attacks that are not personal in nature, there are times when it is better to not respond at all. Unless the damaging post is actually going to impact your credibility, income, or personal life in a substantial way just leave it to die. People posting things about how they don’t personally like you or that you’re an idiot shrivel up and die quickly because commenters and spreaders get bored. Likewise, most people that engage in posting damaging material get bored quickly and move on if you don’t rise to the bait. What is damaging is subjective and changes in the eyes of each individual so their is no hard and fast rule regarding this.

Only in the most extreme of cases should you ever consider legal action. If you truly feel the post is so bad that it must come down, check the Terms of Service (TOS) for the damaging bloggers host and see if they have in some way violated those terms and then contact the host company directly. If you do so, make it known you are very serious and will consider further steps to have the content removed up to and including action against them. You may well be bluffing, but every blue moon it may get a review of the content and an actual removal of it. The reality is that when you go this route the blogger often gets more irate and pops up elsewhere and gets even nastier because you fed the fire. So again, only go this route if the damaging blog has caused irreparable harm or somehow compromised your safety.

Only you know what way to handle a damaging blog is the correct one for you. While it can be a necessity to respond, in many cases it is best to let sleeping dogs lie. Responding does not always work in your advantage and is sometimes not much unlike walking trough a dog pound wearing milk-bone underpants. Weigh the pros and cons and proceed logically and appropriately no matter what option you choose in the case of being flamed in a damaging blog post.

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2 Responses to “How to respond to harsh or damaging blog comments”

  1. Great post. When I was a grad student, I’d published my first professional article and was slammed by well-known experts in my field. I was devastated and talked to one of my professors about it. He congratulated me and said that a response…any kind of response…is great because it means I’m being noticed. I hope I’ll take that to my blog when I get my first nasty post.

  2. txwikinger said

    Reblogged this on txwikinger's blog.

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