Technology: Do NOT Tamper With Your Comments!

I told my ex-girlfriend not to lie to me... I mean, she was still my girlfriend at the time, and now she isn't. The reason I told her that was that I was catching her in small, seemingly insignificant lies. VERY VERY small lies... Not even worth telling, to be sure. I explained to her that the most important thing you have in a relationship is trust. Without TRUST, you have nothing at all, because any communication you have with anyone will be tainted... untrustworthy... disbelieved. Lying to me about small things is WORSE than lying to me about important things, because it's not necessary. If your character can't stand up to the smallest criticism and you feel the pressure and need to LIE, then you CERTAINLY don't have the stomach to tell me the truth when it REALLY counts.

WHAT does this have to do with "Technology", you ask?... Because the same holds true in many situations, *including* posting on the internet. The way a lot of blogs are set up, including this one that I'm posting to right now, after the main entry, there's a section for comments. This is the place for viewers/readers to weigh in and let you know if they agree OR disagree with what you said, and why.

The benefit of having comments is taking a post from being a soliloquy to being the beginning of a conversation. It's like having a lecture and then at the end, opening up the floor to any questions your audience might have. *YOU* are just as responsible for and will be held accountable for what happens in your comment section as you will be held accountable for what you post in the main entry. Just like I told my ex... (paraphrasing, hahaha) the way you carry yourself in dealing with comments can make or break your credibility in EVERYTHING ELSE that's MORE IMPORTANT than your comments section.....

Let's take a very simple example that everyone should be able to follow:

Let's say you have a company that sells widgets. Let's say your business blog is "widgetblog", and is a blog about widgets. Let's say you also author "personalblog", and what you post there has NOTHING to do with widgets, and only to do with your personal life. Unfortunately for you, you can not separate these three things if people know that you're connected to all of them. Similar to a chain, your credibility is only as strong as the *WEAKEST* link.

Now, let's say you post that "the sky is blue". Let's say that several people post "I agree, the sky IS blue!" and those comments are not tampered with. What do you do when someone posts "the sky is actually grey"? This person has now added their personal opinion to the discussion that you started. Do you leave this dissenting opinion on your site so that people can see the HONEST, TRANSPARENT format of how the discussion actually unfolded?.... OR.... Do you log in as "admin" and CHANGE THAT POST so it now reads "the sky is blue"?

Let's say you get five more "blues" and two more "greys" and even a "red"... What now? Do you log in AGAIN, and tamper with your comments AGAIN? When someone comes to your post the next day, will EVERYONE be in agreement with your position? Is that fair? Is that HONEST? Is that *transparent*?

Now, in most cases, you can get away with this underhanded behavior. There's only one thing you have to do to maintain your credibility and look like people agree with you..... Be. Faster. Than. Everyone. Else. That. Reads. Your. Blog!

If you come to your blog, and the dissenting posts have been sitting there for an hour, consider the possibility that SEVERAL PEOPLE may have ALREADY READ THEM and will see you for who you really are and what you're really doing if you tamper with your comments. :/

What's the problem if you get caught tampering with your comments?.... "Trickle Up"! :D

If you get caught tampering with comments on PERSONAL posts, your credibility is *SHOT*. You can NOT be trusted. If you can't be trusted with the comments on your personal post, you can't be trusted in what you POSTED either. Why tell the truth, when you could make up a convenient lie to make yourself look good? Now, your entire personalblog is tainted. Meanwhile, you're the same person that writes and moderates widgetblog. Why should we believe that you're willing to risk your business by allowing people to have opinions contrary to YOUR best interests? Now, the posts AND comments on widgetblog are tainted.

Meanwhile, you're the owner of the widget company. Why should your character in doing business with someone face to face, shaking their hand and looking them in the eye be any stronger than when you're posting a business or personal blog? So, unfortunately "this person is a liar" trickles UP to where you don't want it because you didn't have the stomach to leave your comments alone and perhaps POST A REBUTTAL? Stand up for your own statements? Explain to the dissenting commenter why you think you're right and they're wrong? Seriously. :/

Assuming you feel you're prone to resort to underhanded tactics to make yourself look good in the future by tampering with people's comments today... Here are some things you can do that will still make you look like you have something to hide, but there's no PROOF, like when a statement that was "X" for 45 minutes, suddenly becomes "Y" merely by clicking 'refresh' in your browser. :/

Turn Off Comments - Your word is law and that's it. Anybody who comes to personalblog or widgetblog will get what YOU have to say about things, and that's it. Nobody else has any say.

Turn On Moderation - Make it so that NOBODY'S comments make it to personalblog or widgetblog unless YOU approve them. That way, when everything ends up positive, you just look like you spun the situation by only letting the comments through that you liked. This is DIFFERENT from changing people's posts because there's never anything negative for people to see in the first place, AND dissenting comments don't become agreeing comments with the same person's name on the top, posted at the exact same time.

Delete Dissenting Comments - MUCH, MUCH better than changing what people had to say from "X" to "Y" is deleting their comments altogether. That way, you look like someone who can't handle the truth instead of someone actively cheating to make it look like everyone's on your side in this situation.

Don't Blog At All - Really, I don't understand why some people post things on the net in the form of a blog with comments, when they don't REALLY want to hear what people honestly think about what they're saying or doing.

Maybe two years ago, I read something I thought was interesting on someone's blog. I thought it was very interesting..... as well as COMPLETELY WRONG! :D I explained to her very professinally and clinically WHY she was wrong by posting a comment on her blog. Eventually, I got an email from her saying that she was going to erase my comment, and suggested (to her credit, because I hadn't saved my post anywhere) that I copy it and post it on my own blog and link to hers.

I wrote back to her, thanked her for not deleting my post FIRST, and explained to her (in not so flowery terms) that I thought she was lame for having a web site where all she wanted on it was her opinions and people that agreed with her position. She was doing a disservice to her readers, because with all of them commiserating and rallying around the flag, it was the blind leading the blind, and they were never going to get to the solution to their problem, because they had the question wrong in the first place.

Since then, I've come to realize that many people post NOT to START a conversation, but to appear as if they're an authority in something. They think that as long as they post something and nobody disagrees, they look intelligent or wise. I now realize that a lot of people use the internet to make themselves feel better or to doctor the results so as to convince themselves that they're in the right and someone else was in the wrong.

That's all well and good, however, if that's the type of person you are, don't think that people aren't figuring you out. Don't think that you're getting away with tampering with comments or juking stats scot-free. Your credibility's taking a hit, and you may find out down the line when nobody wants to buy your widgets that it's because more people than you know saw you tampering with comments on some seemingly insignificant post and decided that your credibility as a businessperson has been seriously undermined by your personal character.

Bill Cammack • Cammack Media Group, LLC

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6 Comments

  • Luke Gedeon

    I have to agree with BSuvorov. This post is way too long especially for something on *Fast* Company.

    I agree with your premise though. Beyond just wrong, editing comments is dumb.

  • Rhonda

    Good point about deciding just WHY you blog. Much like the "solicited" reviews on selling sites. Glad to see there is an internal governing system (in other words, ethics) still in place.

  • Bill Cammack

    @BSuvorov: Thanks in advance for the positive review that's going to become the next time I log in! ;)

  • LeX

    I couldn't have said it better myself man. Well done! I actually never noticed this going on until it was brought to my attention AND it then happened to one of my own comments shortly after.

  • Liz

    Excellent post, mon frère. I've seen this happen more than a few times on blogs over the years. At times I wanted to stop and point out what was going on, but now I just find it amusing to watch from the sidelines.