The Coral Project Guides
[IMAGE] An image of an open cardboard box on a black background

The Real Reason Your Comments Are Terrible

Trolls and abuse are real problems – but they’re a symptom of the problem, not the cause. The real problem is probably you. This is why.

Imagine you’re trying to collect donations of food for a food bank.

There are two approaches you could take. You could take a cardboard box, place it randomly on the sidewalk, walk away, come back in a day or two, and hope that people have left tins of food in the box.

If you did this, what do you think will be inside? The most likely result is that it’s full of trash.

Or you could write on the box, “DONATIONS FOR FOOD BANK. PLEASE HELP.”

You could place it on the sidewalk outside a supermarket, and stand near it.

If anyone throws trash in, you take it out.

If anyone puts food in, you thank them.

Maybe you set up a small display next to the box, showing some of the best donations you’ve received so far, guiding more people about how they can easily contribute.

Which of these approaches is most likely to be successful?

If you said the second approach, and you work on a website, take a look at the comments on your page.

Are you placing an empty box on every page, walking away from it, and then coming back and getting frustrated when you see that people put garbage in there? If so, should you be surprised that’s happening?

Your comments don’t have to be full of trash. But the first thing you have to change is your approach.  Start Here to make the change.

(We also have a comment platform that can help.)


Photo by dOOnLoL, CC BY-NC-SA. Massive hat tip to online community hero Derek Powazek, from whom the box metaphor is shamelessly borrowed.

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