A Comment on Comments


Here is an interesting juxtaposition. First, I read “The Availability Heuristic in the Classroom: How Soliciting More Criticism Can Boost Your Course Ratings” by Craig R. Fox, UCLA Anderson School and Department of Psychology.

In this study, two groups of students filled out an evaluation of an MBA course. One group was asked for two ways to improve the course; the other was asked for ten ways to improve the course. The group that was asked to list ten ways showed a higher level of satisfaction with the course. My interpretation is that the more you enable people to provide feedback and comments, the higher they might evaluate your product or service—simply because you asked for feedback and comments.

Second, I came across this explanation of a blog’s policy for comments:

Since this is one of those perennial questions, let’s explore the convoluted mechanisms by which you can add your own insightful, typo-free comment to any

[name deleted] post. Begin your education with the [name deleted] Comments FAQ. In a nutshell, most commenters are sent personal invites by [name deleted]. Said invites allow comment access throughout [name deleted], and throughout all [name deleted] sites in fact. However, you don’t have to possess an invitation to comment—auditions for new commenters are perpetually ongoing. More explanation of this mysterious alternate path, after the jump.

Commenter auditions are quite simple. Even if you don’t have comment access, you can submit a comment to any post. Just type your comment in the space provided, then enter a username and password (you’re advised to use an alias as your username), and hit the “Submit Comment” button. The system will note that you’re not an approved commenter, and you’ll be asked to verify your password (and enter an optional email address for password recovery). Assuming you comply, your comment will be saved, but will not be posted yet. Instead, it will be submitted for review to determine its worth. If it’s a fantastic comment, it will be approved; the comment will go live, and you’ll have full comment access in future to post without moderation. If your comment’s a waste of time, then it will be ignored.

Bear in mind that simpleminded comments—short declarations of agreement, insults, dumb jokes, irrelevant remarks, or other foolishness—will always be ignored. Say something interesting. Make a brilliant observation. Share a particularly juicy tip. Or amaze the crowd with your rapier wit. That’s the kind of thing we like. For a little context, explore other commenters’ history. Clicking on any commenter name in any post will take you to that commenter’s home page, where all the comments they’ve ever made are collected in one place.

So even if you haven’t “earned” an invite, feel free to take a crack at commenting. Someone is always reading.

It’s hard to believe that a policy like this is optimal for a blog, and it’s surprising that a blog with such good writers has such a policy. IMHO, companies should open up the channels of communication with its customers. If this study is right, doing this alone may put companies in a better light, and they will probably learn something from their customers too.

By | 2016-10-24T14:22:27+00:00 February 13th, 2007|Categories: Marketing and Sales|43 Comments

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About the Author:

Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design tool. Formerly, he was an advisor to the Motorola business unit of Google and chief evangelist of Apple. He is also the author of The Art of Social Media, The Art of the Start, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, Enchantment, and nine other books. Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College.


  1. Alex Grogan February 13, 2007 at 8:35 am - Reply

    First and foremost, thanks for giving me the opportunity to comment here on your site. I only wish that I could record an audio or even a video comment along with my typed response.
    Given that on some blogs the number of comments can soar up into the hundreds, in my opinion, /that/ is where the action and the value of a blog resides.
    If someone is too thin-skinned to actually have comments displayed on their site which might be considered argumentative or which might express views contrary to the authors own, then perhaps they should not be blogging to begin with.
    I can think of no other boring site than one which the author simply expresses their own viewpoint and leaves the audience out in the cold. For me, I never return.

  2. Alex Grogan February 13, 2007 at 8:40 am - Reply

    Wow, I must say that in NO WAY did I think that your comment system here was going to hyperlink my name to my email address – I already receive tons of spam, and now your site is only going to help those who harvest email addresses spam me even more.
    Might I suggest that you change that as soon as possible? Unless of course, you are in the business of providing email addresses to spammers – perhaps I should have read your sites privacy policy first…
    This is news to me. I altered your email address in both comments. This is TypePad. I have no control over this as far as I know.

  3. Alex Grogan February 13, 2007 at 9:10 am - Reply

    Okay Guy – looks like you have no control over the issue.
    Found this here.
    “Require Email Address – Users can submit comments without a TypeKey or TypePad account, but they will be required to input an email address. Note: Email addresses will be linked to commenter’s name in the comment footer but will be encrypted to prevent spamming.”
    They obviously don’t realize how easy it is to “unencrypt” the email address. Their lack of knowledge of such things justifies my decision to never use their service.
    #109; #97; #105; #108; #116; #111; easily translates into mailto

  4. Shefaly Yogendra February 13, 2007 at 9:16 am - Reply

    Some very popular blogs do not allow comments. The writers do not want to engage in on-line chat and cross-chat, but if you email them, they are nice and respond to specific questions. The blogs remain popular maybe because sometimes it serves audience need sometimes to read stuff without needing to comment.
    See as an example:

  5. Shefaly February 13, 2007 at 9:18 am - Reply

    Alex, if you input any URL in the box provided, your email would not show. Thanks.

  6. Stephen D February 13, 2007 at 9:19 am - Reply


  7. Tim Walker February 13, 2007 at 9:34 am - Reply

    In support of your point, here’s a contrasting example: The other day I e-mailed a merchant about a bad experience at one of his stores. I don’t know him, but his e-mail is easy to find on his company’s site, and I thought I would tell him about my experience since I’ve been a regular customer at his stores for a long time.
    He e-mailed me back first thing Sunday morning, less than 12 hours after I wrote him. He didn’t argue with me; he thanked me for writing, apologized for my bad experience, and made it clear that my complaint (inattentive clerks) is one he shares. Besides just acting like a concerned human being, he’s more or less cemented my loyalty forever — with an eight-line e-mail.
    Why is that so hard for so many companies? Ah, yes, it requires them to remember that they are collections of *human beings*, despite the businessy trappings of big offices (and call centers etc.), lotsa money, lotsa staff, blah blah blah. Too many folks seem to forget that they’re in business with other *people*.
    In my own work, I want every possible avenue for feedback. I want it unvarnished — not because it’s easy to take, but because it’s hard to hear and therefore actually useful to me as I try to get better at what I do.
    So, thanks for this post, Guy. Now I’m reviewing my own practices for opening myself up to more and fuller feedback/criticism from everyone I do business with.

  8. Caryn Rose February 13, 2007 at 9:42 am - Reply

    What does this mean in terms of Nielsen’s study on participation inequality?
    Commenting is important. It is not, however, essential. I don’t buy the “thin-skinned” accusations, to me, that’s an indication of a bully who enjoys hiding behind his or her keyboard.

  9. Rick February 13, 2007 at 9:49 am - Reply

    That looks like the Gawker tos for comments and I agree with it. I’ve written some pretty scathing stuff on there and they’ve approved of it because it wasn’t just a “you suck” post, which they’re trying to filter out.
    Obviously, this *does* give them license to filter out any negative post, but if you run a site like Gizmodo, you really need to have this kind of statement in order to keep the community intelligent and not go down the drain, such as the comments on Digg. This especially comes in to play when you want to talk about a Microsoft product and not have 100 posts that say “M$ sucks. Uses Linux!”

  10. lakelady February 13, 2007 at 9:56 am - Reply

    I haven’t read the study but from your analysis I have a few thoughts. First, most evaluations of courses happen at the end of a specified period of time and there is no ongoing relationship with the product as there is in the marketplace. This leads to the second observation. Merely soliciting feedback is useless unless there is a sense that the feedback is being heard. Unacknowledged feedback builds more resentment than no venue for feedback at all. How would these students evaluate this course down the line if they knew that none of their input had been considered? I somehow doubt that they would still give it a high rating.
    I believe that this study was conducted in the middle of the semester.

  11. Gary S. Elliott, (M.D.), M.S. PMP, NSA 4011 February 13, 2007 at 10:07 am - Reply

    It is well known in project management and in psychology that to form a project team (a group) that people are proud of belonging to can occur by allowing more input into the team process. This will give people more of a sense of affecting the outcome of the project. This is much more like the original work of Margaret Mead on initiation rights, if you make it a rite of passage and get people to give (comments, ideas) to become part of a given group, they will appreciate their belonging to this group.
    This is what you have shown. People want to feel that they are being listened to and that their input affects outcomes. In doing so, you make them feel allegiance to the group. Hence, a small form of an initiation rite.

  12. Aaron February 13, 2007 at 10:14 am - Reply

    The 3rd comment at this link is a great comment/policy regarding comments: http://www.joshwolf.net/blog/?p=306#comments

  13. NitinK February 13, 2007 at 10:42 am - Reply

    I have a typepad blog as well. When users type in a comment and submit both an email address and url (both of which are required), the comment’s Posted By section shows a link to typepad.com, which when clicked redirects the user to the commenter’s *website* – at no point is the commenter’s email displayed.
    [You can see this behavior for the comment from Bart Stevens on this post:
    http://blog.softwareabstractions.com/the_software_abstractions/2007/02/web_25_the_soci_1.html#comments ] .
    I looked at my typepad settings, and in the “Configure Weblog / Feedback / Comment Formatting” section, I have the “Require captcha” and “Auto-link Urls” boxes checked – please feel free to email me if you’d like to know the status of any other settings.
    Looking at the Typepad support page [ http://support.typepad.com/cgi-bin/typepad.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=51&p_sid=4Dqc39ui&p_lva=67&p_sp=cF9zcmNoPTEmcF9zb3J0X2J5PSZwX2dyaWRzb3J0PSZwX3Jvd19jbnQ9MTA2JnBfcHJvZHM9JnBfY2F0cz0mcF9wdj0mcF9jdj0mcF9wYWdlPTEmcF9zZWFyY2hfdGV4dD1jb21tZW50cyBlbWFpbCBhZGRyZXNz&p_li=# ], I’m still not sure why my settings work for suppressing the commenter’s email address – but luckily, they do! 🙂

  14. Guy Kawasaki February 13, 2007 at 10:48 am - Reply

    Due to the very open nature of comments on my blog, I found out that when people provide their email addresses, they get spam. I forwarded this comment to the GM of TypePad who told me how to stop this in my advanced template.
    If my comments were not open, I may not have gotten this feedback–certainly not as fast. I rest my case about open comments!

  15. NitinK February 13, 2007 at 11:09 am - Reply

    Ah! I’ve got it – it appears that if the commenter adds a url when posting their comment, typepad correctly changes the Posted By link to a redirect to that url, and *hides* the commenter’s email address. (See my previous comment, which does not display my email address.)
    Incidentally, Guy, I really enjoyed the last panel of the day at CommunityNext last Saturday – you made it very interesting! Markus, Drew et al and especially James Hong were great!

  16. Biz Man February 13, 2007 at 11:28 am - Reply

    Sounds like they don’t actually want anyone to comment…

  17. Dave C. February 13, 2007 at 11:56 am - Reply

    Wow, that’s quite possibly the most arrogant and condescending thing I’ve ever heard. I wonder if its one of those things where someone typed it up as a joke and then it got published, like in the movie Crazy People…
    “Volvo – We’re Boxy, but Good!”

  18. The Bamboo Project Blog February 13, 2007 at 11:59 am - Reply

    Could Solicity Criticism Actually Boost Your Rating?

    Guy Kawasaki reports on a UCLA study he found, The Availability Heuristic in the Classroom: How Soliciting More Criticism Can Boost Your Course Rating. According to the study, two groups of students were asked to evaluate a course. The first

  19. Martin Edic February 13, 2007 at 12:10 pm - Reply

    That long set of requirements for commenting reminded me of the Author Guidelines a lot of publications used when I wrote articles for a living. Their primary purpose was to weed out amateurs who would spam editors by sending every magazine in Writer’s Market their masterpiece about a cute kitty, regardless of the subject area of the publication. They would then follow up with increasingly irritated letters wondering when they were going to be published. So the traditions of idiotic spamming and stupid comments far precede the web.

  20. Gubatron February 13, 2007 at 12:45 pm - Reply

    A Comment on Comments

    Hi Guy Kawaasaki!!!,Trackback from wedoit4you.com on A Comment on Comments at http://www.wedoit4you.com/archive/2007/02/13

  21. Greg February 13, 2007 at 3:18 pm - Reply

    I am only guessing, but that kind of arrogant “rules for commenting” sounds like it came from ValleyWag. Those guys pass out passes for their comments like they were gold bars or something… However with my RSS reader, I never even read the comments left on that page.
    However when someone posts a good post (like yours), I always click through to read the comments… and sometimes I even leave one myself.
    But why do we comment anyway? I do in the hope that someone will click to my vlog and check it out… And click on the ads so I can get my .05 cents.
    However this never works. Even on the most popular of blogs I have commented on, I rarely get anyone that visits from the comments I make. Hmmm, maybe my comments just suck or something..

  22. College Marketing 4.0 February 13, 2007 at 7:04 pm - Reply

    Do You Care What I Think About Your Product?

    Step 5, the final (as of now) step in the ‘get college students primed to talk about your product’ is ask for our opinion. We will happily give it to you. College kids love giving opinions, societies drive for political

  23. Anand Dhingra February 13, 2007 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    Customers are important. They’re the single reason you exist. If you’re blogging, then your “customers” are your audience. Why get defensive with them? Why make them jump thru hoops? Don’t you want them to participate?
    What’s even worse than draconian comment policies are blogs that DON’T allow any comments.
    If there’s one single thing to be learned in this Web 2.0 madness, is that transparency rools the roost.

  24. Chris Williams February 13, 2007 at 7:41 pm - Reply

    This whole panic about email addresses is just silly. Come on people, you can’t hide an email address. It’s like trying to hide your name. It is futile.
    Any “trick” you try to use to hide it will be discovered. The harvesting people are working hard to get past all these things.
    So, use a good spam filter. Dozens of good ones exist. With a good filter, 2-5 get by a day. Press “delete” and move on.

  25. Denis February 13, 2007 at 9:30 pm - Reply

    Hey, just wondering…how much money do you make out of this web site? You seem like you have allot of visitors…
    PS: Great site!!

  26. Shailesh February 13, 2007 at 10:46 pm - Reply

    I strongly believe that blog is a public forum and bloggers should encourage comments and feedback from readers.
    I believe,
    “Good blogs receive Comments,
    Better blogs receive Appreciations, And
    Great blogs receive Criticism.”
    Source-In Praise of Criticism
    Yours is a great blog!!

  27. David Bain February 14, 2007 at 1:32 am - Reply

    “the more you enable people to provide feedback and comments, the higher they might evaluate your product or service”
    Not sure that I agree with this. I think in this case it’s simply because the group were asked a question that was framed in a positive manner… i.e. “ten ways to improve the course”.
    If on the other hand, the questions were “two things about the course you would change” or “ten things about the course you would change”, then my bet is that the students who completed the most questions would on average feel more negatively about the course.
    Superb blog by the way Guy.
    David Bain

  28. Michael Chui February 14, 2007 at 2:20 am - Reply

    “My interpretation is that the more you enable people to provide feedback and comments, the higher they might evaluate your product or service—simply because you asked for feedback and comments.”
    I think that’s erroneous; more likely, most people have general feelings on issues that they can’t really express and when forced to actually articulate them, discover they’re not really that big of a deal.

  29. michael February 14, 2007 at 9:07 am - Reply

    Hi, all… I’ve been working with Guy to update his templates so that email addresses (that were previously obfuscated) don’t display on comments. In fact, this comment is a test of that updated template…

  30. michael February 14, 2007 at 9:09 am - Reply

    So that worked; and we’ll get the archives of the site republished. Note that when you leave a comment the preview will display your name as linked to your email address, but when it’s published on the blog it won’t display. Thanks for your patience!

  31. jope February 14, 2007 at 9:19 am - Reply

    I love this site!

  32. Rob Lindberg February 14, 2007 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    To say the students are more satisfied when asked for more comment is quite possibly erroneous. First, both took the same course. If the two samples are truly similar, their satisfaction should be nearly equal. One possibility for the higher satisfaction could be that those who were asked two questions could easily name two negatives about the class and focused on these negatives when giving a satisfaction level. Many of the respondents of the 10-suggestion review were likely unable to think of 10 improvements to the class. When unable to think of ten improvements, respondents likely began to think the class ‘was not that bad’ in retrospect.
    However, if true, the 10-suggestion method may boost satisfaction psychologically – which is may be just as beneficial or better than rational/utility satisfaction.

  33. Marketing & Strategy Innovation Blog February 14, 2007 at 12:06 pm - Reply

    A Comment on Comments

    By: Guy KawasakiHere is an interesting juxtaposition. First, I read The Availability Heuristic in the Classroom: How Soliciting More Criticism Can Boost Your Course Ratings by Craig R. Fox, UCLA Anderson School and Department of Psycholog…

  34. Brett February 14, 2007 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    Kinda changes the belief in “No news is good news.”

  35. Damon Billian February 14, 2007 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    I personally understand the need to moderate comments. I am of the mindset that it should occur after the post is made, though. If blogging is about conversation and discussion, all you do is restrict the conversation & discourage folks from participating in the community when you limit comments and/or overly moderate them.
    Note: Don’t most blogging platforms allow you to ban certain IP addresses? It would seem like it is the easier way to deal with spammy/vulgar/abusive commenters.

  36. Khiem Nguyen-Trong February 14, 2007 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    Allowing open comments in a blog is similar to having a customer be allowed to touch and feel a product before they buy. It helps develop a 2-way interaction in a way that the reader/customer feels personally connected and vested in the product at hand.
    I used to do training presentations for a living so it was common for me to deliver the exact same presentation multiple times for different audiences. Everytime I would allow the audience to interrupt me and ask questions, they would rate me higher on the evaluation form than if I deferred questions until the end of a section or the end of the presentation.
    By allowing consumers to invest their time and energy in sharing their thoughts and realizations, you increase the perceived value of your product.
    If you watched one of Guy’s video where he had a panel of young adults describe their use of technology, that’s exactly what they talked about. One of the boys said that advertisement does not influence him to buy a product. However, being able to see it, touch it, feel it (whether it’s thru a kiosk or because he saw his friends own it), then it would give him more of an incentive to buy the product.
    It’s something that relates to the psychology of attraction. There’s a company called theApproach (www.theapproach.com) that talks extensively about that when it comes to applying that principle to dating.
    Basically, their theory applied to marketing would go something like this:
    1. Display the value of your product
    2. Get people invested in finding/discovering your product
    3. Reinforce that the product is good for them

  37. Craig February 14, 2007 at 11:54 pm - Reply

    Is this person mad? In everything that you do, it should be as easy as possible to receive feedback. This includes blogs, business websites and training sessions.
    How many times do you have to scratch around a website to find somewhere that you can give the business some sort of feedback abou the site? Or you really want to make a comment on a blog, and either there is no facility at all to do so, or the process requires verification and a complex series of screens which is just too much effort for the average user.
    You should value and crave the feedback – it will only help you to perform your own performance.
    I run a lot of training sessions, and I do not run any session without providing the delegates the immediate ability to give me feedback – ie: fill out a feedback form at the course!

  38. Ashish Mohta February 16, 2007 at 7:58 pm - Reply

    They do want comment but they dont want spam.Sometimes ppl just smap with comments like “good” wow or bla bla…
    Liked the post pretty intresting stuff.I hope they keep saying it

  39. John Doe February 17, 2007 at 1:55 am - Reply

    Nice articles, but don’t you think not everyone have times to make a ‘lengthy and good’ comments on things they’ve read? It takes 10 seconds to write those – it’s time problem (at least for me).
    Sometimes people just, don’t have any idea what to write most of the time!
    @Alex: Truly agree with your comments above. Individualistic approach does nothing but harm your blog.

  40. Des Traynor February 18, 2007 at 10:44 am - Reply

    Hmmm, my interpretation of the study would be slightly different.
    Having spent their time trying to come up with 10 improvements to a course, they are more likely to realise that there isn’t _that_ much to improve. Finding 10 concrete practical improvements is difficult, so I would think stuednts are more likely to sit back and say “Well it’s actually pretty good in hindsight”.
    Whereas anyone can come up with 2 improvements, and walk off with the smug poorly thought out idea that “There are loads more improvements besides those two, therefore its a badly run course”.
    Thats my 2 cent anyways.
    I enjoy your work Guy,

  41. Love Ask March 5, 2007 at 8:43 pm - Reply

    It would seem like it is the easier way to deal with spammy/vulgar/abusive commenters.

  42. SEO July 24, 2007 at 7:15 am - Reply

    My main concern is that you can’t guarantee every page of your website will be included in the SERPs. Considering I’m constantly adding new products to my company’s website, I need to be sure that customers can find them as soon as possible.http://www.seoptimizerz.com

  43. Marketing & Strategy Innovation Blog November 5, 2007 at 9:53 am - Reply

    A Comment on Comments

    By: Guy KawasakiHere is an interesting juxtaposition. First, I read The Availability Heuristic in the Classroom: How Soliciting More Criticism Can Boost Your Course Ratings by Craig R. Fox, UCLA Anderson School and Department of Psycholog…

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