Nearly four years ago, I wrote a post about comment ownership and coComment (it was initially published on their blog, and I moved it over here at some point). I don’t use coComment anymore, but a few of the points I made then are still valid.
Comment ownership is a complex problem. The commenter writes the comment, but the blog owner hosts it. So of course, the blog owner has the right to decide what he agrees to host or not. But the person who wrote the comment might also want to claim some right to his writing once it’s published.
And also the following:
There are times when one could say the “blog owner rights” and “comment writer’s rights” come into conflict. How do you manage such situations?
Here’s an example. Somebody e-mails me, out of the blue, to ask me to remove a comment of his on a post published ages ago (ironically, it’s the post published just before the one I’m quoting above!)
I went to look at the comment in question, and frankly, it’s completely innocuous. So I googled that person’s name and realised that my post appears somewhere in the middle of the first page of results. This gives me a guess as to why the person is contacting me to remove the comment.
And really, it seems pretty petty to me. And removing that comment bugs me, because I responded to it, and the person responded back, so what the person is in fact asking me to do is to remove (or dismember) a conversation in the comments of my blog, which has been sitting there for nearly four years. All that because they’re not happy that CTTS makes their comment appear somewhere on the first page of results for a Google search on their name.
Which brings me back to comment ownership. Saying the comment belongs to the commentator is simplistic. C’mon, if everybody who left a comment on CTTS these last 10 years started e-mailing me to remove them because they “taint” their ego-googling, I simply wouldn’t have time to deal with all the requests.
But saying the comment belongs to the blog owner is simplistic too.
I think we’re in a situation which mirrors (in complexity) that of photography ownership between model and photographer. With the added perk that in the case of blog comments, as soon as it is published, the comment becomes part of a conversation that the community is taking part in. Allowing people to remove published comments on a whim breaks that. (Just like bloggers don’t usually delete posts unless there is a very strong reason to do so — when published, it becomes part of something bigger than itself, that we do not own.)
So, for this situation, I guess the obvious response is to change the full name to initials or a nickname, and leave the comment.
But I see this with discussion lists, too. The other day, a pretty annoyed woman was complaining that somebody had called her out of the blue about coworking, when she was not at all interested in sharing an office space. Well, she had written a message or two on a local coworking discussion list, with all her contact details in signature.
What do you expect? And what happened to taking a deep breath and deciding “OK, I’ll do things differently in the future” when you realise you behaved a little cluelessly in the past?
I think all this concern about e-reputation is going to start becoming a real pain in the neck. Get over it, people. Open a blog and make sure you own your online identity, and you can stop worrying about the comments you made four years ago.